Court quashes some District of Columbia gun laws

Litigation Reports

In a mixed decision, a federal appeals court on Friday struck down as unconstitutional several strict gun registration laws in the nation's capital, but upheld other restrictions aimed at public safety.  

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that the city cannot ban gun owners from registering more than one pistol per month or require owners to re-register a gun every three years. The court also invalidated requirements that owners make a personal appearance to register a gun and pass a test about firearms laws.

But the court upheld other parts of the law, such as requiring that so-called long guns — including rifles and shotguns — be registered along with handguns. The ruling also allows gun owners to be fingerprinted and photographed, pay certain fees and complete a firearms safety training course.

In all, the court upheld six gun laws and struck down four.

The District of Columbia put the registration laws in place after a landmark 2008 Supreme Court decision that struck down a 32-year-old handgun ban in the District of Columbia. The high court ruled in that case the Second Amendment protects handgun possession for self-defense in the home.

A federal judge had previously upheld all the new registration laws, considered among the strictest in the nation.

District of Columbia officials argued that the laws were aimed at preserving gun owners' constitutional rights while also protecting the community from gun violence.

But writing for the appeals court majority, Judge Douglas Ginsburg said some of the laws did not pass constitutional muster. He rejected, for example, the city's argument that the one-pistol-per-month rule would reduce illegal trafficking in weapons.

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