Guns

Federal Court Upholds D.C. Gun Control, Says 'Judiciary Should Defer to the Legislature'

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In response to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down D.C.'s handgun ban, the District enacted a new Firearms Registration Act that same year. Among other stipulations, the new law banned so-called assault weapons, banned the possession of high-capacity gun magazines, mandated that all firearms (handguns and long guns) be registered, required that all such registrations be renewed every three years, and forbid individuals from registering more than one pistol per month.

Dick Heller, the victorious lead plaintiff at the Supreme Court, found this new gun control regime equally objectionable and brought suit on Second Amendment grounds. In 2011, he suffered a partial defeat when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the "assault weapon" and magazine bans while sending the rest of the case back down to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for further proceedings.

The district court has now issued its opinion. "The people of this city, acting through their elected representatives, have sought to combat gun violence and promote public safety," the ruling declares. "The Court finds that they have done so in a constitutionally permissible manner." D.C.'s Firearms Registration Act was upheld in its entirety.

In his opinion, District Judge James E. Boasberg largely justified that outcome on the grounds of judicial deference. Here's how the judge framed the central dispute in the case:

According to the District, it need only provide "'some meaningful evidence' demonstrating that the challenged registration requirements 'can reasonably be expected to  promote' an important government interest."…

Plaintiffs claim, by contrast, that the District must establish that the challenged regulations will "actually achieve the governmental interest to a significant degree."

Notice the difference between these two standards of review. Dick Heller wants the government to show that its laws will "actually achieve" the goal of reducing gun violence. D.C. wants the courts to give its regulations the benefit of the doubt.

The benefit of the doubt is precisely what D.C. got in this case. "When the evidence regarding a law's probable effect is in conflict," Judge Boasberg held, "the judiciary should defer to the legislature."

Heller is expected to appeal.

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  1. Judge Boasberg held, “the judiciary should defer to the legislature.”

    The judiciary’s entire point is to act as a check on the legislature and determine if the legislature’s laws are constitutional. Otherwise what is the fucking point of a supposedly separate branch? Fucking moron.

    1. Even apart from that, even by the lower standard, the law is crap. Who can reasonably expect that this will reduce gun violence by even a single incident?

      1. Apparently all they have to do is make the claim, evidence be damned, and the Constitution is magically nullified.

        1. National Zoo?

          Is the federal government STILL holding innocent animals in undersized cages against their will?

  2. At some point someone has to remember there’s a Constitution requiring deference.

    1. It’s in the secret Article Zero that doesn’t appear in “civilian” copies of the US Constitution.

    2. “Shall not be infringed” actually means “may be infringed to the extent desired by any government entity so long as they claim an important government interest in doing so”. Otherwise known as the FYTW clause.

      1. something about a rational basis for yelling “PENUMBRA” in a theatre too.

    3. Like that old clerk guy in the Simpsons who found that Prohibition was actually still on the books. I keep waiting for the real Constitution to get found, the one where growing wheat for your own use is interstate commerce and commercial speech isn’t real speech.

  3. Plaintiffs claim, by contrast, that the District must establish that the challenged regulations will “actually achieve the governmental interest to a significant degree.”

    Uh… so what if the regulations will achieve beyond all doubt some “governmental interest”? I can’t find the words “… unless there is some kind of governmental interest” anywhere in the Constitution.

    1. I can’t find the words “… unless there is some kind of governmental interest” anywhere in the Constitution.

      Penumbras, emanations, FYTW.

    2. Of course it’s absurd to think it’s okay for the government to be allowed to override the Constitution by claiming they have an important government interest in doing so, since the whole purpose of the Constitution is to limit government power and place restrictions on what government may do.

    3. The Necessary and Proper Clause
      The reasoning:

      “No axiom is more clearly established in law or in reason than wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power for doing it is included.”

      Madison fucked up.

  4. Once upon a time judges were a check against legislative power. Now they defend it.

  5. “The people of this city, acting through their elected representatives, have sought to combat gun violence and promote public safety,”

    “The people of this city, acting through their elected representatives, have sought to combat gun violence Catholicism and promote public safety Satan Worship,”

    “The people of this city, acting through their elected representatives, have sought to combat gun violence abusive speech and promote public safety speech they like,”

    “The people of this city, acting through their elected representatives, have sought to combat gun violence Tea Party extremism and promote public safety allowing soldiers be quartered in private homes,”

    “The people of this city, acting through their elected representatives, have sought to combat gun violence pronography and promote public safety no-knock, warrantless computer searches in private homes,”

    “The people of this city, acting through their elected representatives, have sought to combat gun violence low conviction rates and promote public safety forcing the accused to testify against themselves,”

    SHALL.

    NOT.

    BE.

    INFRINGED….BITCH!

    1. They came first for the Second Amendment, but since I am not a gun nut, I said nothing.

      Then they came for the Fourth Amendment, but since the innocent have nothing to hide, I said nothing.

      Then they came for the Fourteenth Amendment, but since government has never discriminated against me, I said nothing.

      Then they came for the First Amendment, so now I can say nothing.

      1. Well said.

  6. Not to mention the whole de jure/de facto aspect of the issue.

    The legislature is Constitutionally free to ban unicorns and a unicorn ban will, with 100% efficacy prevent the existence of unicorns. It doesn’t mean that the judicial has to defer to them or that the people should suffer such a ban.

    Unless the ban begins with a seizure of existing weapons, which the judicial should oppose, it is de facto ineffective.

  7. The judge is an Obama appointee, and get this: he’s on the FISA court.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_E._Boasberg

    1. So, he keeps his rubber stamp well-inked.

    2. He denied the public’s right to view government photos of a deceased Osama Bin Laden… [sic]FOIA rights don’t outweigh national-security factors.

      TRANSPARENCY!

  8. Among other stipulations, the new law banned so-called assault weapons, banned the possession of high-capacity gun magazines, mandated that all firearms (handguns and long guns) be registered, required that all such registrations be renewed every three years, and forbid individuals from registering more than one pistol per month.

    Buzzwords! Fake words! And Arbitrariness! OH MY!

    According to the District, it need only provide “‘some meaningful evidence’ demonstrating that the challenged registration requirements ‘can reasonably be expected to promote’ an important government interest.”…

    Plaintiffs claim, by contrast, that the District must establish that the challenged regulations will “actually achieve the governmental interest to a significant degree.”

    Rights have nothing to do with “government interest”. Therefor, “government interest” is not a legitimate case for legislation. Also, are not courts supposed to rule on Constitutionality and not the promotion of interests?

    1. Of course; the Constitution is specifically designed to override government interest, by depriving it of the power to take action in areas that would infringe upon people’s rights.

    2. Government interest overrides rights.

      You see, while the plain text of the Constitution clearly describes enumerated powers and unlimited rights, it is the job of judges to claim it describes unlimited powers and enumerated rights.

  9. The courts should defer to the people of the United States, who passed a basic law of some sort, I think it was called the Constitution.

  10. Leaving aside the philosophical arguments, from a purely legal perspective the decision is incorrect. Governmental intrusion on constitutionally-protected rights requires the highest level of judicial scrutiny, not the lowest (which is what was applied here). That’s a well-established Supreme Court principle. This should be overturned on appeal.

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