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Federal appeals court issues mixed ruling on DC gun laws

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Friday issued a ruling in Heller v. District of Columbia [text, PDF], ultimately upholding six and striking down four controversial elements of the Firearms Registration Amendment Act (FRA) and the Firearms Amendment Act of 2012 [texts]. Created in response to the Supreme Court's striking down [opinion] a DC law prohibiting "handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," the FRA prohibits certain firearms, requires registration and required frequent re-registration of all firearms within the District and imposes strict conditions upon registration. The FRA also prohibits individuals with certain prior criminal convictions, mental incapacities, or those under age 18 from owning firearms. Following a flurry of litigation initiated by Dick Anthony Heller, the DC Council [official website] created the Firearms Amendment Act of 2012 to lessen the registration burden of the FRA. Ruling on Heller's appeal on Friday, the court struck down six provisions of the FRA and its amendment, including one barring individuals from registering more than one firearm per month, and those requiring in-person re-registration every three years. The court upheld the requirement of registration of both handguns and long guns, and maintained certain bars to registration such as fingerprinting, photographing, fees, and completion of a firearms safety course. In ruling against the provisions, Judge Douglas Ginsburg noted that common sense and experience must govern regulation. On the argument that the one-gun-a-month requirement would limit firearms trafficking into the District, Judge Ginsburg said, "the suggestion that a gun trafficker would bring fewer guns into the District because he could not register more than one per month there lacks the support of experience and of common sense."

Gun control [JURIST backgrounder] and the Second Amendment continue to be controversial topics in the United States. Last month US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered a review [JURIST report] of military recruitment office security policies in the wake of a shooting at a Chattanooga, Tennessee Navy-Marine reserve center. Last December the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that a law prohibiting individuals who have been committed to a mental institution for any amount of time from possessing a firearm is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. This court was the first to strike down a federal gun law under the Second Amendment since the US Supreme Court effectively struck down Washington, DC's ban on firearm ownership six years ago. In August 2014 a federal judge for the US District Court for the District of Maryland upheld [JURIST report] portions of Maryland's gun control law, which banned certain types of "assault weapons" and a limited gun magazines to 10 rounds. In June of that year a judge for the US District Court for the District of Colorado upheld [JURIST report] two Colorado statutes that expanded mandatory background checks and banned high capacity magazines.

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