View Full Version : D.C. Opposes Relief from Stay in Heller

09-24-2007, 1:38 PM
D.C. opposes gun access plea (http://www.scotusblog.com/movabletype/archives/2007/09/dc_opposes_gun.html)

Opposition Brief in PDF (http://www.scotusblog.com/movabletype/archives/DC%20gun%20reply%20CA%209-24-07.pdf)


04:38 PM | Lyle Denniston |

The local government of Washington, D.C., on Monday urged the D.C. Circuit Court not to "interfere" with the Supreme Court's coming action on the city's gun control law, arguing that an existing order temporarily allowing enforcement of that law should be left intact. City officials were responding to a request by a local resident to allow him and others living in the capital city to have immediate access to rifles and shotguns in functioning condition, for self-defense use.

The Supreme Court has not yet acted upon the city government's appeal (D.C. v. Heller, 07-290), seeking to overturn a Circuit Court ruling last March that the handgun ban -- one of the strictest gun control laws in the nation -- does not violate the Second Amendment. Attorneys for local resident Dick Anthony Heller, who had successfully challenged the pistol ban, have until Oct. 5 to reply to the city appeal, but are expected to file before that date.

In the meantime, Heller's attorneys took the unusual step of asking the Circuit Court to put into effect immediately a part of the local gun ordinance that requires owners of rifles and shotguns kept at home to be disassembled or with a trigger lock in place. Contending that the city had conceded that that part of the law could not be enforced if rifles and shotguns were used for self-defense, Heller's counsel said the Circuit Court should partially lift a stay of its ruling while Supreme Court action was awaited. An earlier post discussing this request in the Circuit Court can be found here.

Responding Monday, city officials said that it had made no concession that the disassembly-or-lock provision was invalid. And, they contended, if the Supreme Court were to side with the District's position, that part of the local law, too, would fall. Once again, officials noted that they do not contend that legally owned rifles and shotguns kept at home could not be used in self-defense. But they said that situation should not be compelled by the Second Amendment, as they said the Circuit Court had ruled.

To partially lift the temporary stay of enforcement on the gun law, officials told the Circuit Court, would be to split the case -- with part of it going forward in lower federal courts, while the Supreme Court was considering the city's pending appeal on the constitutional question. Federal court rules, they asserted, seek to prevent "such inefficient and undesirable proceedings."

The stay issued by the Circuit Court, putting off the effect of its ruling against the local law, "should continue until the Supreme Court has disposed of this case."

As a practical matter, the city brief added, there is only a "distinctly remote" chance that Heller would have to use a rifle or shotgun to defend himself, and there is no likelihood that he would be prosecuted while the case is pending before the Supreme Court. No one has ever been prosecuted in the city for using a lawful weapon in self-defense, it noted.

Heller, the city added on another point, had agreed earlier to the stay of the Circuit Court ruling, to await the outcome of Supreme Court action. "The material circumstances have not changed," the city said. "As a consequencek, neither should the status quo."