Heller Challenge Redux: New DC Gun Law Stands

By Robyn Hagan Cain on October 07, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

D.C. is a scrappy jurisdiction, which isn't surprising considering that it houses thousands of politicos, but has no voice in Congress. D.C. overcompensates.

For years, the District famously banned handguns. The Supreme Court overturned that ban in the 2008 case, D.C. v. Heller, finding that the Second Amendment does not permit "absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."

The District responded to Heller by implementing new laws requiring handgun registration and background checks, and banning semiautomatic rifles and magazines with more than 10 rounds. Dick Heller, (yes, Heller), returned to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the new laws.

Heller objected to the gun registration process, which includes extensive background checks and five requirements that Heller equates with licensing gun owners. (For example, the "licensing" provisions require sufficient vision to qualify for a driver's license and firearms training or safety courses.) He also took issue with the assault weapon ban.

This week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Heller's challenge to the new gun laws, finding that "basic registration requirements are self evidently de minimis, for they are similar to other common registration or licensing schemes, such as those for voting or for driving a car, that cannot reasonably be considered onerous."

Regardless of where you stand on gun control, it's still early to rejoice/lament this decision. While all three judges on this case agreed that the D.C. gun law should be analyzed under the "reasonable-regulation test," Judges Douglas Ginsburg and Karen Henderson applied the intermediate scrutiny to the law, while dissenting Judge Brett Kavanaugh argued that the panel should have applied strict scrutiny.

Heller has already won once on a D.C. gun law challenge in the Supreme Court. Do you think he will appeal on the scrutiny standard, and go one more round?

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