Monday, July 16, 2007

More on Washington D.C.'s Appeal

D.C. to Appeal Handgun Case to High Court

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 16, 2007; 2:44 PM

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced today that the city will appeal to the Supreme Court to uphold a long-time ban on handguns that was overturned by a lower court in March.

"The handgun ban has saved many lives and will continue to do so if it remains in effect," Fenty said at a morning news conference.

(If this is so, then how come Washington D.C. is the murder capitol of the USA? -Yuri)

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found three months ago that the city's prohibition against residents keeping handguns in their homes is unconstitutional. In May, the full appeals court declined a petition from the city to reconsider the panel's decision.

There is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will even hear the city's appeal. The high court has not ruled on a Second Amendment case since 1930, D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer said. She said she consulted numerous legal experts before recommending to Fenty (D) two weeks ago to appeal the case.

While many have said that the city should fight the appeals court ruling, some cautioned that a defeat in the Supreme Court could carry severe ramifications across the country for other cities whose gun control laws could overturned.

"We're right on the law," said Singer, adding that the city's ban on most handguns will remain in effect during the appeals process.

"Wherever I go, the response from the residents is, 'Mayor Fenty, you've got to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court,' " Fenty said.

The city's three-decade-old gun ban was challenged by six D.C. residents who said they wanted to keep guns in their homes for self-defense. The District's law bars all handguns unless they were registered before 1976; it was passed that year to try to curb gun violence, but it has come under attack since then in Congress and in the courts.

Alan Gura, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the case that overturned the gun-ban, predicted the high court would affirm the lower court's decision.

"We're very pleased the case will go to the Supreme Court," Gura said. "We believe it will hear the case and will affirm that the Bill of Rights does protect the individual."

A central question the D.C. case poses is whether the Second Amendment protects an individual's rights to bear arms. Experts say that gun-rights advocates have never had a better chance for a major Second Amendment victory, because a significant number of justices on the Supreme Court have indicated a preference for the individual-rights interpretation.

Singer said she expects to receive legal assistance from several high-profile Constitution experts, as well as other cities. She said she will ask for a 30-day extension on the deadline to file her appeal with the Supreme Court, pushing that date to Sept. 5.

"If the U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear this case, it could produce the most significant Second Amendment ruling in our history," Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement. "If the U.S. Supreme Court follows the words of the U.S. Constitution and the Court's own precedents, it should reverse the Appeals Court ruling and allow the District's law to stand."