Mayor ‘dis­ap­pointed’ as court de­nies D.C.’s gun ap­peal

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Gary Emerling

A fed­eral ap­peals court on May 8 de­nied a pe­ti­tion by Dis­trict of Columbia of­fi­cials to re­con­sider a March rul­ing that over­turned its 30-year-old gun ban.

The U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the D.C. Cir­cuit ruled 6-4 to deny the Dis­trict’s re­quest that the en­tire court re­view a pre­vi­ous rul­ing in which a three-judge panel found some of the Dis­trict’s gun re­stric­tions to be un­con­sti­tu­tional. The onepage or­der con­tained no ex­pla­na­tion for the court’s de­ci­sion.

The de­ci­sion not to re­hear the case means city of­fi­cials must ap­peal to the U.S. Supreme Court if they hope to pre­serve what had been con­sid­ered among the most­strin­gent gun laws in the na­tion.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said he was “dis­ap­pointed” and “sur­prised” by the de­nial. He said that he is re­view­ing the court de­ci­sion and that city of­fi­cials have 90 days to file an ap­peal to the Supreme Court.

“We want to say em­phat­i­cally that the Dis­trict’s gun-con­trol laws, as have been out­lined by many law-en­force­ment ex­perts, are a crit­i­cal part of the Dis­trict’s pub­lic safety strat­egy and have been so for more than 30 years,” said Mr. Fenty, a Demo­crat. “It is our in­tent to im­me­di­ately be­gin re­view­ing all of our op­tions over the next few weeks and to soon make a de­ci­sion and an an­nounce­ment about how we will pro­ceed.”

Mr. Fenty said his ad­min­is­tra­tion is also con­sid­er­ing work­ing with the D.C. Coun­cil to craft new gun-con­trol leg­is­la­tion that would still fit within the Dis­trict’s goals for pub­lic safety.

The po­ten­tial leg­is­la­tion could de­fine “ex­actly how hand­guns could be stored in the home and what is still not per­mit­ted in the Dis­trict of Columbia,” Mr. Fenty said.

“Our No. 1 pri­or­ity is the safety of the res­i­dents of the Dis­trict of Columbia,” he said. “We will weigh ev­ery­thing.”

The Dis­trict’s gun re­stric­tions re- mained in place through the ap­peals process. Mr. Fenty said of­fi­cials will file a mo­tion to keep them in­tact dur­ing the 90 days avail­able to con­sider a Supreme Court ap­peal, and he ex­pects no op­po­si­tion to the move.

The panel ruled in a 2-1 de­ci­sion is­sued March 9 that the right to bear arms as guar­an­teed in the Sec­ond Amend­ment ap­plies to in­di­vid­u­als and not only to mili­tias.

The ini­tial rul­ing re­voked por­tions of D.C. law that pro­hibit res­i­dents from keep­ing firearms in their homes and re­quire own­ers of reg­is­tered guns, in­clud­ing shot­guns, to store them with trig­ger locks or keep them dis­as­sem­bled.

The de­nial dealt a blow to of­fi­cials’ hopes of keep­ing the ban in­tact in a city that has of­ten strug­gled with a no­to­ri­ous crime im­age.

Last year, 137 of the city’s 169 killings were com­mit­ted us­ing guns, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Metropoli­tan Po­lice De­part­ment. So far this year, the Dis­trict has recorded 57 killings, up from 49 at this time last year.

The Fenty ad­min­is­tra­tion filed its re­quest for re­hear­ing on April 9, ar­gu­ing that the panel’s de­ci­sion con­tra­dicted Supreme Court prece­dent and that the “Sec­ond Amend­ment pro­tects private pos­ses­sion of weapons only in con­nec­tion with ser­vice in a well-reg­u­lated cit­i­zens mili­tia.”

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, who wrote the orig­i­nal dis­sent­ing opin­ion in the March de­ci­sion, was among those who re­jected the pe­ti­tion to re­hear the case.

As­sis­tant Po­lice Chief Win­ston Robin­son, who ap­peared at a press con­fer­ence with Mr. Fenty to com­ment on the rul­ing, said re­vok­ing the city’s gun laws would only lead to more vi­o­lence and said Vir­ginia Tech gun­man Se­ung-hui Cho was a “good ex­am­ple of guns be­ing avail­able to peo­ple who should not have them.”

“Hav­ing guns avail­able in homes will lend them­selves to be avail­able to chil­dren and oth­ers for crime or to ac­ci­den­tally harm them­selves,” Chief Robin­son said.

The de­ci­sion was cheered, how­ever, by Wayne LaPierre, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

“We think it’s a vin­di­ca­tion for the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans who all along have viewed the Sec­ond Amend­ment as be­ing about their in­di­vid­ual free­doms,” Mr. LaPierre said.

Mary F. Calvert / The Wash­ing­ton Times

Somber faces: Dis­trict of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty stood with other D.C. of­fi­cials to speak out against the 2-1 de­ci­sion of the U.S. Court of Ap­peals to strike down the city’s strin­gent hand­gun law on March 9.

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