A federal judge in the District of Columbia on Saturday overturned the city’s total ban on residents being allowed to carry firearms outside their home in a landmark decision for gun-rights activists.
Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. wrote in his ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia that the right to bear arms extends outside the home, therefore gun-control laws in the nation’s capital are “unconstitutional.”
“We won,” Alan Gura, the lead attorney for the Second Amendment Foundation, told Fox News in a phone interview. “I’m very pleased with the decision that the city can’t forbid the exercise of a fundamental constitutional right."
Gura said he expects the District to appeal this decision but added, “We’ll be happy to keep the fight going.”
The decision leaves no gray area in gun-carrying rights.
Judge Scullin extensively referenced the Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) to concluding “there is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia's total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny.”
The court ordered the city to now allow residents from the District and other states to carry weapon within its boundaries.
Judge Scullin wrote that the court “enjoins Defendants from enforcing the home limitations of [D.C. firearms laws] unless and until such time as the District of Columbia adopts a licensing mechanism consistent with constitutional standards enabling people to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.”
The defendants are the city government and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.
This case has dragged in the courts for five years. Gura has twice asked the federal appeals court to force Judge Scullin to issue a decision. The five plaintiffs filed in 2009, and the case was argued twice, most recently in Oct. 2012.
George Lyon, a D.C. resident and registered gun owner is one of the plaintiffs in Palmer.
“I am gratified that after a long wait our right to protect ourselves and our families has been vindicated,” Lyon, a lawyer, said Saturday.
He urged Mayor Vincent Gray, a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled City Council to “swiftly enact a concealed carry law that protects the rights of law abiding citizens to protect themselves.”
Gray did not respond to request for comment.
City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Sunday that he just learned of the ruling and had yet to read the opinion.
However, he said because of the District's unique national security concerns, the right to carry a firearm in public "must be more heavily restricted than any place else in the nation."
"Four U.S. presidents have been assassinated by gunfire, and at least five others have been shot at, including Ronald Regan who was seriously wounded in 1981," he said. "Neither the Secret Service nor the Capitol Police will disclose all incidents where they have recovered firearms, but we do know that just two years ago someone hit the White House with gunfire, and there are frequent threats on the foreign diplomatic corps."
Emily Miller is the chief investigative reporter for Fox 5 DC. She is the author of Emily Gets Her Gun (Regnery/2013).