Gun-Happy Attorney Fights for the Right to Carry

Gun owners sue DC over restrictions -- again

WASHINGTON -- An attorney who helped D.C. gun lovers get the right to keep handguns in their homes now wants them to be able stroll in public strapped.

Alan Gura, whose Supreme Court challenge forced the District to end its 32-year-old handgun ban, has gone back to court to challenge regulations prohibiting gun owners from carrying their weapons in the nation's capital, the Washington Times reported.

"I think they're still in denial of what happened at the Supreme Court," he said.

A lawsuit Gura filed Thursday in federal court challenges the gun laws that the city passed in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling. Those laws allow registered guns to be kept only at home for self-defense. Gura's suit asks that the city issue licenses to carry guns in public.

"It's up to the city council if they wish to regulate carrying arms," Gura said Friday. "What they cannot do is ban all carrying by all people at all times."

Three of the plaintiffs in the case against the city are licensed gun owners in D.C. who had applications rejected when they applied to carry their guns outside their homes for self-defense. One of them, 46-year-old Amy McVey, was the first person to register a handgun after the ban was lifted, the Times reported. She said she might carry her gun "everywhere it's legal."

Another plaintiff from Maryland applied to carry his gun for self-defense while visiting D.C. after he was stopped for speeding in the city and was charged with carrying a loaded handgun in his car.

The Washington state-based Second Amendment Foundation also is a plaintiff, the Times reported.

Councilman Phil Mendelson, chair of the D.C. Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, told the Times he disagrees with the premise of the lawsuit, arguing that the Second Amendment does not necessarily grant the right to carry.

"In the nation's capital, carrying is perhaps the greatest concern to law enforcement because it makes it very hard for law enforcement to distinguish between a person who is carrying a firearm legally and a potential assassin."

Federal law enforcement agencies support the restrictions, and recent efforts to change the city's gun laws in the Senate stopped short of allowing weapons to be carried or concealed, said D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles. Allowing people to carry guns around the city, past various embassies, Congress and the White House won't be tolerated, he said.

"We think we are on very solid ground," Nickles said. "It's the last place in the world that you'd want to have people carrying concealed weapons."

Of the 50 states, only Illinois and Wisconsin prohibit concealed carrying of handguns, along with D.C., according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Many states, such as neighboring Virginia, allow open carrying of guns. Some states, though, give police discretion to exclude people deemed dangerous from legally carrying such weapons.

Daniel Vice, senior attorney for the Brady Center, said allowing people to carry loaded, semiautomatic weapons in the nation's capital would endanger government facilities, many tourists and the dense population.

In the case that struck down D.C.'s handgun ban, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that "the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited," noting that courts have long held that bans on carrying concealed weapons were lawful.

Gun control advocates use this line to argue the Supreme Court's ruling was limited to keeping guns for self-defense at home.

"If the lawsuit is asking that people be allowed to openly carry loaded weapons in our nation's capital, that is a recipe for disaster," Vice said.

A legal scholar who follows gun issues said the Supreme Court has not definitively ruled on how far the Second Amendment extends individual gun rights. The court had little to say on the issue before the case that overturned Washington's handgun ban, said George Washington University law professor Robert J. Cottrol.

"There is perhaps a broader question of carrying (guns) in urban areas vs. other areas," he said, "though we already have experience with liberal right-to-carry laws in other urban areas -- Miami, Philadelphia and other major cities."

Gun control advocates recently defeated a proposed expansion of concealed carry rights attached to a defense bill in the Senate. They argued the recent killings of three police officers in Pittsburgh and 10 people in rural Alabama were committed by people who had permits to carry concealed weapons.

In March, Gura filed a lawsuit over the city's list of acceptable handguns. That was dropped in June when the city expanded the list.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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