DC gun rights backfire, judge upholds registration in Heller II - New York News

DC gun rights backfire, judge upholds registration in Heller II

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WASHINGTON - D.C.’s gun rights activists had a setback on Thursday when District Court Judge James Boasberg handed down his ruling in the case known as Heller II. The judge upheld the city’s gun registration laws as constitutional.
 
This ruling means that if you want a legal gun at home in D.C., you still have to go through the 12 or so steps it takes to register it.
 
These unique laws started after the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 in the first Heller case that the 30-year ban on handguns violated Second Amendment rights.
 
I talked to City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who wrote the gun laws, after the ruling came down. He said he’s “pleased” with outcome. The chairman said that the court upheld that a “minimal amount of burden” on a citizen is acceptable when it comes to constitutional rights because it is balanced by public safety.
 
“I’ve said all along that registration is not about trying to catch those who are law abiding,” explained Mendelson. “It’s about making it easier for police to detain and arrest those who are not law abiding and don’t want the government knowing they have a gun.”
 
Steve Halbrook, the lawyer for Dick Heller in this current case and the other plaintiffs, told me that the ruling was a “great disappointment.”
 
Halbrook pointed out that D.C. claims that “it needs to register guns so police can check if a gun may be present at a crime scene.  It turns out that they don’t do so, obviously because criminals don’t register guns.” He is referring to D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s testimony in a deposition in Heller II in which she said that her officers do not call in to check for registered guns when responding to a call.
 
Even if they did, police testimony shows that the registered gun database is only kept in the Firearms Registration Section that is only staffed weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
So what this ruling means in practical sense is that D.C. residents will still have to abide by the strictest gun laws anywhere in the country in order to have a legal gun in the home.
 
Specifically, residents have to appear in person at police headquarters to be fingerprinted and photographed. They also much pass a written test on the gun laws and take a course on gun safety. They have to bring each gun owned or bought to the police station.
 
The limit on one handgun a month or 12 a year stays intact. Judge Boasberg wrote: “That is more than enough.”
 
The District is also the only place except Hawaii that requires long guns -- shotguns and rifles -- be registered. This is despite the fact that these firearms are rarely used in crimes.
 
Potential gun owners also have to pay fees to register each gun. Then, they have to pay a fee every three years to re-register as a firearms owner. The first time they re-register, they have to go to the police station again to be fingerprinted and photographed.
 
Halbrook said that Heller and the other plaintiffs in this case will appeal the decision.
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