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November 8, 2010

Heller returning to court


On November 15th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear oral arguments in the lawsuit brought by Dick Heller seeking to overturn the District’s new Post-Heller firearms regulations.  Heller, the lead plaintiff who challenged the District’s previous handgun ban in the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago and won, sued the District a second time claiming that its new firearms registration process, its ban on certain commonly possessed semiautomatic firearms, and its prohibition of large capacity ammunition magazines were unduly burdensome and violated the Second Amendment.  Anyone who wants to own a firearm of any kind in the District, even an inherited or collector’s gun not for actual use, would need to meet several onerous requirements—written exam, vision test, training, fingerprinting and ballistics testing, for example.  Registration would only be good for three years after which time an owner would need to comply with another set of bizarre and extraordinary renewal requirements.   However, even though the District’s regulations choke the living life out of an individual’s fundamental rights, this past March a lower federal court found them to be constitutional.  On appeal to the D.C. Circuit, Heller through his attorney Stephen Halbrook argues “Just as one may not be required to register to exercise the rights to freedom of religion and speech, a person may not be required to register merely to possess a firearm in his or her home.  Heller did not question ‘longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill.’  But registration is not a traditional regulation for mere possession of ordinary firearms in the United States.”  While the District contends that it respects the Heller decision and the Second Amendment, the District is acting beyond the authority granted it by Congress in enacting its extremely unusual and highly unreasonable firearms regulatory scheme.