SAF sues District of Columbia over permits
by Dave Workman
More than a year after the US Supreme Court voided the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and four private citizens have filed a lawsuit in federal district court, challenging the District’s continued refusal to issue gun carry licenses, to residents or non-residents of the city.
SAF filed the lawsuit on behalf of three District residents, Tom G. Palmer, Amy McVey and George Lyon, and Concord, NH, resident Edward Raymond. They are being represented by Virginia attorney Alan Gura, who successfully argued the Heller case that led to the 2008 Second Amendment ruling by the high court.
SAF founder Alan Gottlieb told Gun Week that, “It is beginning to appear like residents of the District are up against a rogue city government that simply does not want to ease its stranglehold on the most important civil right of all, the right of self-preservation.”
“In most major American cities,” Gura observed, “where the right to bear arms is respected, licensed permit holders have proven themselves safe and effective. Washington, DC, already requires handgun registrants to complete the background checks and training classes required of carry permit holders throughout the country. It is pointless to deny these individuals the right to bear arms.”
At issue is the city’s long-standing “custom, practice and policy of refusing to entertain gun registration applications by individuals who do not reside in the District of Columbia.”
According to Gura’s complaint, District code “provides that no person or organization…shall possess or control any firearm, unless the person or organization holds a valid registration certificate for the firearm.”
Further, the complaint notes, District code mandates that registration certificates “shall not be issued for a…pistol not validly registered to the current registrant in the District…prior to Sept. 24, 1976.” This rule is subject to three exceptions, the complaint notes, including “organizations that employ special police officers or other licensed gunowners who are armed on duty, retired police officers, and ‘any person who seeks to register a pistol for use in self-defense within that person’s home’.”
But within those regulations appears to be a Catch-22 situation, especially for non-residents of the city.
SAF wants the court to issue a permanent injunction against the city and Police Chief Cathy Lanier from enforcing the registration ban on handguns to be carried for self-defense by law-abiding citizens. The foundation would also like the court to order the defendants to issue licenses to carry handguns to anybody who satisfies the legal requirements for such a permit.
There once was a city code that allowed the police chief to issue carry licenses, the complaint recalls, but last Dec. 16, the City Council repealed that code, stripping the police chief of the authority to issue such licenses.
This is the second lawsuit SAF has filed against the District in recent months over the city’s alleged foot-dragging and road-blocking of efforts by citizens to get their handguns registered. In the earlier action, in which Gura also is representing SAF and individual plaintiffs Tracy Ambeau Hanson, and Paul and Gillian St. Lawrence, the city’s arbitrary listing of accepted guns was challenged. The city had been allowing registration of guns based on a roster maintained by the State of California.
Hanson had wanted to register a model of a pistol that was a different color from handguns allowed by the District, and she couldn’t.
As a result of that action, the city earlier this Summer changed its rules by emergency order. Under the emergency order, the city acknowledged that California’s gun roster is inadequate, and that the city is also now relying on “safe gun rosters” maintained in Maryland and Massachusetts.
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