Judge: DC’s former gun ban violated rights of 6 arrested

A federal judge has ruled that the District of Columbia’s former ban on carrying handguns in public violated the constitutional rights of six people arrested between 2012 and 2014.

U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth did not rule on a motion seeking class-action status. His decision could lead to claims for damages by thousands of other people wrongfully arrested before the court overturned the D.C. ban in 2014.

Lamberth’s Memorandum Opinion, issued Wednesday, found the District’s repealed bans on carrying a weapon, possessing a non-D. C. registered firearm, and the possession of ammunition by someone who did not have a D.C. registered firearm violated the plaintiffs’ rights.

“The District violated the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights by arresting them, detaining them, prosecuting them, and seizing their guns based on an unconstitutional set of D.C. laws,” Lamberth wrote.

Six plaintiffs — four nonresidents and two D.C. residents — are seeking class-action status, asserting claims under the Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments. The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure and the Fifth Amendment promises due process.

Lamberth set future arguments to consider the class action status. D. C. officials have said more than 4,000 arrests and almost 2,000 prosecutions were based on the former statutes.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Karl Racine declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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