Dick Heller is probably laughing to himself today. Late yesterday, US District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that Washington, D.C. is liable for six wrongful arrests made in the years after the D.C. vs Heller Supreme Court decision was handed down. The individuals in question were arrested between 2012 and 2014 for carrying handguns in public.
The city, which had the strictest gun control laws in the nation, didn’t like the Court’s ruling and enacted new restrictions on carrying firearms in the capital.
From the Washington Post . . .
The District enacted new restrictions on openly carrying firearms in the city, but a federal judge in July 2014 and an appeals court in July 2017 again struck down regulations requiring residents to show “proper reason” to do so, such as a fear of injury or transporting valuables. The 2014 ruling also barred the city from enforcing carrying restrictions against people “based solely on the fact that they are nonresidents.”
The city subsequently repealed statutes criminalizing possession of firearms not registered in D.C., possession of ammunition by people without a D.C.-registered firearm and otherwise barring possession by nonresidents.
The city claimed the Second Amendment violating laws were necessary given the city’s “gun violence” problem and it couldn’t have known it was violating anyone’s rights until the post-Heller laws were struck down. Lamberth didn’t buy that argument.
Instead, Lamberth ruled, laws banning carrying firearms in public and nonresidents from registering firearms, and permitting the arrest of nonresidents for carrying weapons or ammunition without a license, “go the core of the Second Amendment.” The judge said the amendment preserves the “right of responsible citizens to carry firearms for personal self-defense beyond the home, subject to long-standing restrictions,” quoting the 2017 opinion, Wrenn v. District of Columbia.
“The District violated the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights by arresting them, detaining them, prosecuting them, and seizing their guns based on an unconstitutional set of D.C. laws,” Lamberth wrote.
The ruling covered six individuals, but as many as 4500 people were arrested and 1900 prosecuted by the city during the years the laws were in place, so expect more claims for damages.