Court upholds D.C.’s firearms registration law

McClatchy Washington BureauMay 15, 2014 


A Smith and Wesson, 22-caliber handgun.

RED HUBER — Orlando Sentinel/MCT

— A federal court on Thursday upheld the District of Columbia’s strict firearms registration law.

In the latest round of fighting over the meaning of the Second Amendment, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg concluded the D.C. law was narrowly tailored to meet a compelling interest.

“The people of this city, acting through their elected representatives, have sought to combat gun violence and promote public safety,” Boasberg wrote, adding that “they have done so in a constitutionally permissible manner.”

The D.C. law had been challenged by Dick Anthony Heller, who earlier had successfully reached the Supreme Court in a case that overturned the District’s far-reaching ban on firearms. The high court in that case concluded that the Second Amendment protected handgun possession for self-defense in the home.

Washington, D.C. officials responded by enacting a law that banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines but, as Boasberg put it Thursday, “merely imposed registration requirements for handguns and long guns.”

Appointed to the federal bench by President Barack Obama, Boasberg underscored in his decision the toll that gun violence has taken in the nation’s capital, kicking off his 62-page decision with the observation that “the District of Columbia knows gun violence.”

Following the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, D.C. officials established a city gun registry, run by the police department.

To register a firearm, the owner must appear in person at police headquarters with the weapon he seeks to register. He must be photographed and fingerprinted, complete a background check, and provide, among other things, his current place of employment and his residences going back five years. The background check queries a number of sources. The prospective registrant must also take and pass a test demonstrating knowledge of the District’s firearms regulations as well as complete a firearms-training and safety course provided free of charge by the District.

“The basic registration requirement allows the District to keep track of who is responsible for which guns, while also acting as a ‘hook’ onto which the District can attach additional public-safety regulations,” Boasberg wrote. “This interest is particularly compelling in the District of Columbia, a densely populated urban area that shares the problem of gun violence with other dense, urban jurisdictions.”

Email:; Twitter: @MichaelDoyle10.

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