Attorney General Racine Pleased that Court Upholds Key D.C. Gun Restrictions, Expresses Concern about Those Struck Down

D.C. Circuit Decision Upholds 6 Parts of D.C. Gun Laws, Including Core Gun Registration, But Strikes Down 4 Other Requirements 

Washington, DC – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today expressed satisfaction that a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the core registration requirement for rifles and other long guns under the District’s gun laws, in addition to five other restrictions. However, the Attorney General also expressed concern that the majority opinion struck down four other requirements.

Together with a prior 2011 ruling upholding the registration requirement for handguns, today’s ruling means the court has upheld the District’s registration requirement for all firearms.

In the Heller v. DC ruling, the three-judge panel unanimously upheld the District’s basic registration requirement as applied to long guns, requirements that applicants to register guns appear in person and be photographed and fingerprinted, requirements that registrants pay certain fees, and the requirement that registrants complete a firearms-safety-and-training course.

“This ruling is further confirmation that the people of the District of Columbia, acting through our elected officials, have complied responsibly and constitutionally with Supreme Court precedent in requiring that firearms be registered for the promotion of public safety,” Attorney General Racine said. “We will continue to defend our gun laws against challenges from those who would impose their views on our residents.”

The two-judge majority on the panel ruled that the District had not proven that four other registration requirements were sufficiently tied to the stated governmental interests for them, including the requirement that a firearm registrant bring the firearm with them when registering when so requested, the requirement that a registered owner re-register his or her firearm every three years, the requirement that registrants pass a test proving their knowledge of the District’s gun laws, and the prohibition on an individual registering more than one handgun in any 30-day period.

One judge on the panel, the Hon. Karen LeCraft Henderson, dissented from this part of the decision, saying she would have upheld all of the District’s challenged gun laws because the record supported the need for them — particularly given how the District, as the nation’s capital, faces unique public-safety challenges.

Attorney General Racine agrees with Judge Henderson’s dissent, in which she notes that the majority’s deference to the District’s sensible gun laws should have extended to all 10 of the restrictions.

“The plaintiffs are quick to point out that the District’s firearms laws are the toughest in the country and that a few have no parallel in other jurisdictions. But their point is unhelpful if the District is different from other jurisdictions. And it is,” wrote Judge Henderson, in an opinion dissenting in part. “Most notably, the District is the seat of our national government. The record amply documents the unique security risks presented by a city full of high-level government officials, diplomats, monuments, parades, protests and demonstrations and, perhaps most pertinent, countless government buildings where citizens are almost universally prohibited from possessing firearms.”

The Office of Attorney General is reviewing the decision and considering potential next steps, including seeking rehearing before the full DC Circuit Court.

A copy of the decision is attached.