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Karl A. Racine
Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia

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Federal Judge Upholds DC Firearm-Registration Rules As Constitutional

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ted Gest
Public Information Officer
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, D. C. – A federal judge today upheld the District’s firearm-registration requirements as consistent with the Constitution’s Second Amendment, District of Columbia Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan announced. The case was a follow-up to the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that struck down D.C.’s ban on handgun possession.

United States District Judge James E. Boasberg found that the registration rules enacted by the D.C. Council are substantially related to the District’s interests in protecting the police, controlling crime, and promoting public safety. Judge Boasberg concluded that city officials acted “in a constitutionally permissible manner.”

The Court said the D.C. requirements that firearms registrants appear in person with the weapon to be registered, and submit to fingerprints and photographs, “help to effectuate the District’s firearm-registration scheme by preventing fraud, enabling more comprehensive background checks, and allowing police to more easily verify the true owner of a registration certificate.”

Judge Boasberg found that the interests served by basic registration requirements for handguns are also well served by the registration of long guns. He determined that, while the firearms-safety, training, and knowledge requirements impose more than a minimal burden on plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights, it is “common sense” that these requirements will encourage compliance with the law and reduce gun accidents.

The Court rejected plaintiffs’ challenge to the one-gun-a-month registration limit, finding that the limit is narrowly tailored to meet the District’s interests in reducing illegal gun trafficking and promoting public safety. The ruling upheld the requirement of regular renewal of gun registration, finding that the requirement is “hardly an oppressive burden” and will help maintain an accurate gun registry and make residents more accountable for their weapons.

The Court found that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the law’s vision requirement, which provides that a registrant “not be blind,” because none of the plaintiffs in the case was blind.

A previous ruling in the case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had upheld the D.C. Council’s authority to enact gun regulations, the basic registration requirement for handguns and a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray said, “I applaud Attorney General Irv Nathan and the talented OAG attorneys for today’s important win for public safety in the District of Columbia. I appreciate the court’s affirmation of our sensible gun control laws and urge other jurisdictions to follow our lead.”

Attorney General Nathan said, “Today’s well reasoned, well documented ruling is a significant affirmation of the Council’s work in helping protect the District from gun violence. While Judge Boasberg correctly noted that safety here ‘has improved markedly in this millennium,’ we still are beset with too many lives needlessly lost through the use of firearms. I hope that these regulations and our enforcement efforts will help stem the tide.”

The Attorney General commended his staff, led by Ellen Efros, Deputy Attorney General heading the Public Interest Division, Senior Assistant Attorney General Andy Saindon, and Assistant Attorney General Chad Naso for their excellent work in defending the regulations in this litigation.