Federal District Court
Strongly Rejects National Rifle Association Second Amendment Challenge
to Washington, DC Handgun Ban
Claim by Attorney General Ashcroft That Second Amendment Protects an Individual
Right to Keep and Bear Arms
District Judge Reggie B. Walton last night dismissed a National Rifle
Association (NRA)-backed lawsuit challenging the constitutionality on
Second Amendment grounds of Washington, DC's ban on the sale and possession
of handguns. Judge Walton's 68-page
ruling in Seegars v. Ashcroft upholds the ban, which was adopted
by the City Council in 1976.
In his opinion, Judge
Walton, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W.
Bush, wrote: "[T]he Court must conclude that the Second Amendment does
not confer an individual right to possess firearms. Rather, the Amendment's
objective is to ensure the vitality of state militias."
In praising Judge
Walton's decision, Violence Policy Center (VPC) Litigation Director and
Legislative Counsel Matt Nosanchuk states, "The court's decision is a
victory for the safety and security of District residents. Despite the
`handguns for all' mentality of the NRA, the last thing District residents
want is more handguns in their communities. Judge Walton's opinion is
not only the most comprehensive ruling ever to address the constitutionality
of Washington, DC's strict gun control laws, it is one of the most thorough
and thoughtful decisions on the Second Amendment ever rendered." The VPC
filed a friend-of-the-court brief
in the case.
case is the latest decision rejecting challenges to gun laws on Second
Amendment grounds following Attorney General John Ashcroft's reversal
of longstanding Justice Department policy regarding the Second Amendment,
now stating that it protects an individual right to bear arms. Ashcroft's
"individual rights" interpretation has been rejected in more than 100
cases, including federal court of appeals decisions in Chicago, Cincinnati,
and San Francisco.
case is one component of a high-profile legal and legislative campaign
being waged by the NRA to overturn the DC handgun ban. The lead plaintiff
in the NRA's failed suit, DC Taxicab Commissioner Sandra Seegars, was
featured on the cover of the December 2003 issue of the NRA's America's
1st Freedom magazine. At the same time, the NRA is backing legislation
introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), S. 1414, to repeal the District's
handgun ban. (A separate Second Amendment challenge to the DC handgun
ban, Parker v. District Columbia, is still pending before U.S.
District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.)
brief was prepared by Andrew Frey, David Gossett, Fatima Goss, and Adam
Sloane of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, in Washington, DC.
The Violence Policy Center is a
national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence
in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals.
The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research
on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related
death and injury.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Violence Policy Center
(202) 822-8200 x122