Federal District Court Strongly Rejects CATO Institute-Backed Challenge to Washington, DC Handgun Ban

For Release:  Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Ruling Squashes Latest Attempt to Overturn 28-Year-Old DC Gun Ban 

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan today dismissed a CATO Institute-backed lawsuit challenging the constitutionality on Second Amendment grounds of Washington, DC’s ban on the sale and possession of handguns. Judge Sullivan’s ruling in United States v. Parker upholds the ban, which was adopted by the City Council in 1976. The Violence Policy Center (VPC) had filed an amicus curie brief in the case.

In entering judgment for the District, Judge Sullivan wrote: “[T]his Court would be in error to overlook sixty-five years of unchanged Supreme Court precedent and the deluge of circuit case law rejecting an individual right to bear arms not in conjunction with service in the Militia.”

In praising Judge Sullivan’s decision, VPC Litigation Director and Legislative Counsel Matt Nosanchuk states, “The court’s decision is a victory for the safety and security of District residents. A “handguns for all’ mentality may rule inside the CATO Institute, but out in the real world, the last thing District residents want is more handguns in their communities.”

The Parker case is the latest decision rejecting challenges to gun laws on Second Amendment grounds following Attorney General John Ashcroft’s reversal of longstanding Justice Department policy regarding the Second Amendment, now stating that it protects an individual right to bear arms. Ashcroft’s “individual rights” interpretation has been rejected in more than 100 cases, including federal court of appeals decisions in Chicago, Cincinnati, and San Francisco.

The Parker case is the third strike in recent months against pro-gun forces waging a high-profile legal and legislative campaign to overturn the DC handgun ban. In January 2004, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton rejected a near-identical challenge lodged against the DC law by National Rifle Association lawyers on behalf of DC Taxicab Commissioner Sandra Seegars. Then in February 2004, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) announced his intention to bring an amendment repealing the DC gun ban to the Senate floor. Frist withdrew his amendment in response to an outcry from local leaders including Mayor Anthony Williams, DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey, and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) as well as gun violence victims and their families.

VPC’s friend-of-the-court brief was prepared by Andrew Frey, David Gossett, and Fatima Goss of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, in Washington, DC.






The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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