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Heil Harvard!

Why DC Could Be Facing Another Gun Control Lawsuit from the Man Who Shredded Its Handgun Ban

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Dick Heller is reportedly mulling another lawsuit against the District of Columbia, and once again—it’s over the Second Amendment. Heller was the man who brought about the key DC v. Heller case that tossed the city’s handgun ban and asserted an individual right for Americans to own firearms outside of service in a militia. Yet, it only applied to federal enclaves. In 2010, McDonald v. Chicago expanded that standard to the states. There’s no doubt the capital also faces differing circumstances, given the number of VIPs that reside in the area, like the president of the United States, but that doesn’t excuse the months-long wait people have been subjected to regarding exercising their constitutional rights. These are law-abiding citizens. It’s not right. 


Stephen Gutowski of the Washington Free Beacon reported on this development, interviewing multiple people who have waited as long as May to get their legally acquired firearms from the DC Metro Police. Some are still waiting. If their concealed carry process is a nightmare, no shocker, then why would anyone expect any aspect of gun rights in this city to be any different. Gutowski added that a possible constitutional question surrounding DC police as a federally licensed firearm dealer could be arising, as complaints and wait time begin to stack up (via WFB):

Dick Heller, whose lawsuit led the Supreme Court to declare blanket handgun bans unconstitutional, told the Washington Free Beacon that he may sue the city for hindering his right to bear arms in the face of long wait times for purchases.

Heller has been waiting since mid-April for police to process a transfer for a .32 caliber handgun he purchased in Pennsylvania. He accused city authorities of dragging their feet.

"It's a bureaucracy and they're understaffed," Heller told the Free Beacon. "They couldn't care less. They are noticeably not in a hurry."

Residents who wish to purchase guns must go through the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the only federally licensed gun dealer in the city—an arrangement unique to the nation's capital. In neighboring Virginia, as with many states across the country, handgun transfers and the background checks that accompany them generally take minutes instead of months. The department told the Free Beacon that record demand was to blame for the delays.


Heller's experience is not unique. Sam, who asked not to be identified for fear of facing backlash at his job on Capitol Hill, said he is still waiting to pick up the pistol he purchased on May 29. Christian, a former schoolteacher and civilian contractor in Afghanistan, has also been unable to retrieve his legally purchased guns after a months-long wait.


Gun transfers were previously handled by a private dealer, but when proprietors shuttered the business, the department assumed responsibility for legally transferring guns purchased outside the city. In the years following the Supreme Court's Heller decision, real estate agent Elby Godwin has transferred a number of weapons through both the private dealer and the police department. After a seven-week wait, Godwin left the police office on Wednesday with a pair of handguns. He is convinced that the department employees did not understand how to handle transfers.


We’ll see what happens. After two landmark gun cases in Heller and McDonald, the Supreme Court has been very hesitant to take up new gun cases in the past decade. On the lower courts, Second Amendment advocates have still seen some success but these cases take time. Florida’s universal background check ballot initiative was tossed by the courts for being shoddily phrases, yes, but the unconstitutional law that requires you to be 21 or over for all gun purchases, will probably take years. That law was passed in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland.  

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