D.C. Gun Law Under Fire

A Second Amendment group is filing a lawsuit demanding that the nation's capital ease up its gun laws, which are considered the most restrictive in the nation.

The Cato Institute, a public policy research group that bases its work on libertarian principles, is crafting a legal challenge to Washington, D.C.'s law, claiming that all Americans have the right to defend themselves.

"The Second Amendment provides an individual right for a person to bear arms, not a collective right, not a right of the states, not a right of the militia, but a right on each and every person," said Bob Levy, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at Cato.

Washington, D.C., law states that it is illegal for anyone to own a handgun unless he or she is a police officer or has owned a gun registered prior to 1976.

Even those allowed to possess a gun must keep it unloaded.

"That doesn't deter criminals at all," Levy said. "Somebody who is not deterred by laws against murder, they're hardly going to be deterred by laws that say you can't have a gun. So in D.C., you have a combination, on the one hand, the most severe gun laws in the nation, and on the other hand, one of the highest murder rates in the nation."

Supporters of of the D.C. laws, however, say the vast majority of gun violence is not the result of people defending themselves, but comes from criminals committing homicide.

"This idea that more guns equals less crime is flat out wrong. The truth is more guns equals more crime and it's as obvious as the nose on my face," said Matthew Nosanchuk of the Violence Policy Center.

Nosanchuk also points out that most of the guns used in D.C. crimes come from neighboring states.

"If you look at the guns used in crime in the District and trace them to their origin, how many of those guns came from D.C.? Virtually none of them, they all came from Virginia and other states with much less restrictive gun laws than D.C. has," he said.

But Levy said that the only people being denied guns are law-abiding citizens. And he argues that the numbers skew in favor of those using them lawfully.

"All of the evidence that has been introduced suggests that guns are used about 2 million times a year for defensive purposes. There are only 500,000 gun-related acts of violence a year. So on a four-to-one basis guns are more widely used for self-defense than they are for committing acts of violence. And that suggests that if we had more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens we would have less crime in D.C.," he said. 

No timeframe has been set for the legal challenge, which will be filed on behalf of several D.C. residents who feel they are in danger because the law prevents them from owning a gun to protect themselves.

Fox News' Steve Centanni contributed to this report.