DC Will Pay $5.1 Million Settlement After Judge Discovers Second Amendment Infringements

The city of Washington, DC is expected to pay out $5.1 million as part of a class-action settlement with firearm owners who were arrested under laws that have since been determined to be unconstitutional, per the settlement agreement.

US District Judge Royce C. Lamberth gave the initial approval to the settlement agreement on August 28, 2023 after years of litigation. Lamberth had previously issued a ruling in September 2021 that DC arrested, imprisoned, prosecuted, and confiscated firearms from 6 people “based on an unconstitutional set of laws” and infringed on their Second Amendment rights.

The laws — a prohibition on carrying handguns outside of homes and others that effectively prohibited non-residents from carrying firearms at all in DC — have since been overturned in federal court. They formed part of a “gun control regime that completely banned carrying handguns in public,” Lamberth wrote in the ruling issued in 2021.

Currently, DC will pay a sum of $300,000 to the 6 plaintiffs and $1.9 million in lawyer fees, with the bulk of the remaining money allocated for over 3,000 people projected to qualify for the class-action settlement.

The settlement agreement comes after litigation in multiple prominent federal court cases over the last 15 years that have resulted in judges striking down highly restrictive DC firearm laws, gradually leading to increased legal gun ownership in a city where illegal weapons could be found all over the place.

For decades, the majority of DC residents could not possess firearms in their homes, much less possess them in public. However, that changed with the landmark 2008 Second Amendment Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, which scrapped DC’s handgun ban.

Successive court rulings hacked away at other restrictive DC gun control laws. In 2014, a federal judge in Palmer v. District of Columbia overturned DC’s complete prohibition on carrying handguns in public and enjoined DC from prohibiting non-residents from legally registering firearms. Subsequently in 2017, a federal judge overturned DC’s requirement that individuals demonstrate “good reason” to acquire a concealed carry permit, which opened more avenues to legally carry and possess guns.

In this case, the 6 plaintiffs — which includes four non-D.C. residents — were arrested in the time frame of 2012 to 2014 on charges connected to firearms. These plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in 2015.

After the recent series of federal court rulings, legal gun ownership in DC has gradually increased. At the time of the 2017 ruling, there were just 123 active permits. Currently, there are over 15,000 active permits. Just 5,729 of these permits belong to DC residents and the remaining belong to non-residents, per data DC police recently sent to The Washington Post.

The settlement agreement will still have to go through “fairness hearing” in December prior to receiving its final approval. According to court records,  DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser approved the $5.1 million settlement amount back in June.

For thoroughly anti-gun jurisdictions to see any form of pro-gun reforms to occur, the courts will ultimately have to intervene and roll back gun control. 

That’s the harsh reality of trying to enact pro-gun reforms in pro-gun control jurisdictions.

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