Washington, D.C. City Council passed a law generally prohibiting residents from possessing handguns

Washington, D.C. City Council passed a law generally prohibiting residents from possessing handguns and requiring that all firearms in private homes be (1) kept unloaded and (2) rendered temporally inoperable via disassembly or installation of a trigger lock. On June 26, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, struck down this law as unconstitutional. During the years in which the D.C. handgun ban and trigger lock law was in effect, the Washington, D.C. murder rate averaged 73% higher than it was at the outset of the law.

The 1976 District of Columbia law required all guns be registered, banned new handguns and required guns at home to be stored and dissembled or locked up. Unfortunately, the draconian measures — which lasted more than three decades — didn’t had the desired effect.

Journalist and attorney Jeffrey Scott Shapiro explains the not-so-surprising result in an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 15, 2013:

The gun ban had an unintended effect: It emboldened criminals because they knew that law-abiding District residents were unarmed and powerless to defend themselves. Violent crime increased after the law was enacted, with homicides rising to 369 in 1988, from 188 in 1976 when the ban started. By 1993, annual homicides had reached 454.


Since the gun ban was struck down, murders in the District have steadily gone down, from 186 in 2008 to 88 in 2012, the lowest number since the law was enacted in 1976.

Though it should be noted that the gun murders started decreasing in 1994.

Today, Washington, D.C. still has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. And yet again, the gun murder rate remains dramatically high, the highest in the United States in fact.

The DC gun ban was declared unconstitutional in 2008. Before 2008, private citizens in Washington D.C. were prohibited from possessing handguns, even in their own homes, unless they were purchased before 1976. However, in 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that handgun ban in the District of Columbia v. Heller case, which ruled that the Second Amendment acknowledges and guarantees the right of the individual to possess and carry firearms, therefore making the handgun ban unconstitutional. Following this Supreme Court decision, D.C. enacted a set of laws requiring D.C. residents to register each firearm with the police, undergo a background check, be fingerprinted, photographed, take an online gun safety course, and pass a written test on the gun laws of D.C, as well as declare the address at which the firearm would be kept. All firearm registration/ licenses must also be resubmitted and reapproved every three years, for each individual firearm. Unless a person has undergone all of these requirements, he/she cannot possess ammunition, and until May 2012, they could only possess ammunition for the caliber of the registered firearms. The District of Columbia has had a long-standing ban on both open and concealed carry, which was struck down as unconstitutional by United States District Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. on Saturday, July 26, 2014, after a lawsuit was filed in 2009.

The decision stated:

“In light of Heller, McDonald, and their progeny, there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny. Therefore, the Court finds that the District of Columbia’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. Accordingly, the Court  grants Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and enjoins Defendants from enforcing the home limitations of D.C. Code 7-2502.02(a)(4) and enforcing D.C. Code 22-4504(a) unless and until such time as the District of Columbia adopts a licensing mechanism consistent with constitutional standards enabling people to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Furthermore, this injunction prohibits the District from completely banning the carrying of handguns in public for self-defense by otherwise qualified non-residents based solely on the fact that they are not residents of the District.”


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