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D.C. Asks For More Time To Respond To Handgun Ruling

Unless a judge says otherwise, by Oct. 22 D.C. residents will be able to carry handguns outside the home.
Keith Lafaille: http://www.flickr.com/photos/klafaille/6218726857/
Unless a judge says otherwise, by Oct. 22 D.C. residents will be able to carry handguns outside the home.

D.C. officials are asking a federal judge for more time so they can decide how to respond to a recent ruling overturning the city's ban on carrying handguns outside the home, whether by appealing it or crafting a bill adapting to it.

In a court filing submitted today, D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan requested that a 90-day stay of the late-July ruling be extended to 180 days or until the city files an appeal, though he also says that no decision has yet been made on whether to appeal the ruling. Instead, he said that the city plans to ask Judge Frederick Scullin to reconsider the ruling, known as a Rule 59 motion.

But until that happens, Nathan argued that D.C. legislators will need time when they return from their summer recess in mid-September to debate a bill and take in public comment. The 90-day stay — which was granted after the plaintiffs in the case agreed to it — is set to expire on Oct. 22.

"Without doubt, some reasonable amount of time is necessary for the District's lawmakers to fashion an appropriate response to the Court's order," wrote Nathan. "The difficulty and time and processes involved in balancing all the varied interests here — the constitutional rights of the District's citizens, the public safety and safety of law-enforcement officers, and the unique challenges accompanying the extensive presence of major federal sites like the White House and U.S. Capitol — surely mandates a painstaking and deliberate approach."

Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who chairs the Council's committee on public safety and the judiciary, told WAMU 88.5 earlier this month that he thought that the city would have to allow some type of carry rights outside the home, and that he's looking at models in Maryland and New York for ideas on what D.C. could do.

In early August, Alan Gura, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the handgun ruling, argued that D.C. has no ground to justify anything longer than the 90-day stay, saying that the case deals with a constitutional right that should no longer be denied.

In his filing, Nathan also took issue with the argument that the city's ban on carrying handguns outside the home was unconstitutional because, as Scullin ruled, the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.

"Neither the Supreme Court nor the D.C. Circuit has determined that the Second Amendment extends beyond the home," wrote Nathan. "The historical evidence demonstrates that the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms, as understood at the time of ratification, did not include an unalloyed right to carry operable firearms in public for the purpose of self-defense."

Since the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that overturned the city's total ban on handgun ownership, over 3,000 handguns have been registered in D.C.

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