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Heller v. D.C. II


On June 26 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the District of Columbia had violated the Second Amendment by making armed self-defense in the home impractical and banning the most popular weapons used for that purpose. On July 15 the D.C. Council responded by unanimously approving a law that makes armed self-defense in the home impractical and bans the most popular weapons used for that purpose.

The revised law is so restrictive that Dick Heller, the Washingtonian who successfully challenged D.C.'s handgun ban and firearm storage requirements, has filed another federal lawsuit accusing the district of failing to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling. The new law says a gun may be unlocked and loaded only "while it is being used to protect against a reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm to a person." This provision, Heller's complaint argues, ignores "the need to keepa firearm in useable condition for defense of self and others against an unlawful, sudden, and deadly attack."

Heller also objects to the city's broad interpretation of its "machine gun" ban, according to which virtually all semiautomatic handguns, the most common self-defense weapons, are prohibited. Under D.C. law, "machine guns" include not only guns that fire continuously but also guns that fire once per trigger pull if they can fire more than 12 rounds without reloading or "can be readily converted" to do so. According to the district's interpretation, even a pistol that fires 12 or fewer rounds counts as a "machine gun" if it could accept a bigger magazine.

Heller therefore was not allowed to register his seven-shot .45-caliber pistol, which in the district's view might as well be an Uzi. Instead he applied to register a .22-caliber revolver, mentioning along the way that he was weighing a Libertarian run against Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

Heller's complaint challenges the "onerous requirements to register a pistol" as well. The 12-step process, which requires multiple trips to gun dealers and government offices, includes fingerprinting, a written exam, and ballistic testing. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has said "it could take months."