In a move widely predicted by constitutional scholars, a federal judge invalidated Washington D.C.’s ban on carrying handguns in public on Saturday. Ruling the ban unconstitutional, Judge Frederick Scullin wrote, “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.”
By ruling in this fashion, the court effectively ordered D.C. authorities to allow residents to carry their handguns outside the home while also providing protection for non-residents. The case at the center of the ruling is Palmer et al v. District of Columbia, a legal entanglement that has been hanging around the courts for almost half a decade now. In 2008, the Supreme Court struck the first blow against D.C.’s overprotective laws, ruling that the outright banning of handguns was in violation of the Second Amendment.
Analysts expect that Saturday’s ruling will not be the end of the controversial law. The Attorney General will likely ask for a stay while deciding whether or not to appeal the decision to a higher court. While it’s entirely possible that further appeals could change the shape of the law in D.C., it’s hard to see how Washington will find favor when it comes to their overreaching laws. The Second Amendment is clear in its language, allowing the citizenry to bear arms. There is leeway – or so many politicians and judges believe – in how you interpret the term “bear arms,” of course. But it’s difficult to imagine how it could be restricted to keeping handguns in the home. That’s not “bearing” arms; that’s just “having” arms.
More likely, we’ll see D.C. move into the modern era by implementing a registered system for licensed carry, a system they could easily borrow from neighboring Maryland. Maryland’s gum licensure is already one of the toughest in the country, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see D.C. take that approach. Of course, it would be great to see D.C. adopt a fairer system such as is found in the majority of states, implementing a regular program of background checks and safety training before allowing the majority of permit applicants to carry in public.
Opponents on the left, of course, drag out the tired arguments about all of this handgun-carrying making D.C. a more dangerous place, but these arguments do not have any basis in fact. Anyone who thinks D.C. under these restrictive laws is a “gun free zone” of any kind is simply not paying attention. Law-abiding citizens may not be carrying guns on them as they move about the city, but these laws do nothing to stop the actual criminals. Who would ever think that they would? Nonetheless, it’s this faulty way of thinking that guides gun-control advocates in the United States, so we’ll have to depend on logical court decisions to preserve the Constitution in the meantime.