The United States Supreme Court ruled in the 2008 landmark case Heller v. District of Columbia that a person has the right to carry a firearm outside the home for self-defense. The lead plaintiff in the case, Dick Heller, filed a new lawsuit against DC. This time, he’s zeroing in on the city’s carry restrictions, “high capacity” magazine ban, and ammo restrictions.
Carry Restrictions in DC
According to the lawsuit, concealed carriers in Washington, DC cannot carry concealed in the following locations:
(1) A building or office occupied by the District of Columbia, its agencies, or instrumentalities;
(2) The building and grounds, including any adjacent parking lot, of a child care facility, preschool, public or private elementary or secondary school; or a public or private college or university;
(3) A hospital, or an office where medical or mental health services are the primary services provided;
(4) A penal institution, secure juvenile residential facility, or halfway house;
(5) A polling place while voting is occurring
(6) A public transportation vehicle, including the Metrorail transit system and its stations
(7) Any premises, or portion thereof, where alcohol is served, or sold and consumed on the premises, pursuant to a license issued under Title 25; provided, that this prohibition shall not apply to premises operating under a temporary license issued pursuant to § 25-115, a C/R, D/R, C/H, D/H or caterer license issued pursuant to §25-113, or premises with small-sample tasting permits issued pursuant to § 25-118, unless otherwise prohibited pursuant to subsection (b)(3) of this section;
(8) A stadium or arena;
(9) A gathering or special event open to the public; provided, that no licensee shall be criminally prosecuted unless:
(A) The organizer or the District has provided notice prohibiting the carrying of pistols in advance of the gathering or special event and by posted signage at the gathering or special event; or
(B) The licensee has been ordered by a law enforcement officer to leave the area of the gathering or special event and the licensee has not complied with the order
(10) The public memorials on the National Mall and along the Tidal Basin, and any rea where firearms are prohibited under federal law or by a federal agency or entity, including U.S. Capitol buildings and grounds;
(11) The White House Complex and its grounds up to and including to the curb of the adjacent sidewalks touching the roadways of the area bounded by ConstitutionAvenue, N.W., 15th Street, N.W., H Street, N.W., and 17th Street, N.W.;
(12) The U.S. Naval Observatory and its fence line, including the area from the perimeter of its fence up to and including to the curb of the adjacent sidewalks touching the roadway of Observatory Circle, from Calvert Street, N.W., to Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., and around Observatory Circle to the far corner of Observatory Lane;
(13)(A) When a dignitary or high-ranking official of the United States or a state, local, or foreign government is moving under the protection of the MPD, the U.S.Secret Service, the U.S. Capitol Police, or other law enforcement agency assisting or working in concert with MPD, within an area designated by the Chief, the Chief of the U.S. Secret Service, or the Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, or a designee of any of the foregoing, that does not include any point at a distance greater than 1,000feet from the moving dignitary or high-ranking official; provided, that no licensee shall be criminally prosecuted unless:
(i) The law enforcement agency provides notice of the designated area by the presence of signs, law enforcement vehicles or officers acting as a perimeter, or other means to make the designated area of protection obvious;
(ii) The District or federal government has provided notice prohibiting the carrying of pistols along a designated route or in a designated area in advance of the event, if possible, and by posted signage along a route or in a designated area; or
(iii)The licensee has been ordered by a law enforcement officer to leave the designated area and the licensee has not complied with the order
(B) For the purposes of this paragraph, the term “moving” shall include any planned unplanned stops, including temporary stops, in locations open to the public.
(14) When a demonstration in a public place is occurring, within an area designated by the Chief or his or her designee, or other law enforcement agency, that does not include any point at a distance greater than 1,000 feet from the demonstration; provided, that no licensee shall be criminally prosecuted unless:
(A) The law enforcement agency provides notice of the designated area by the presence of signs, law enforcement vehicles or officers acting as a perimeter, or other means to make the designated area of the demonstration obvious;
(B) The District or federal government has provided notice prohibiting the carrying of pistols along or within a demonstration route or designated area in advance of the event, if possible, and by posted signage along a demonstration route or designated area; or
(C) The licensee has been ordered by a law enforcement officer to leave the designated area and the licensee has not complied with the order;
(15) Any prohibited location or circumstance that the Chief determines by rule; provided, that for spontaneous circumstances, no criminal penalty shall apply unless the licensee has notice of the prohibition and has failed to comply.
This list is very long and includes almost every scenario a person will encounter in DC. It practically bars law-abiding Americans from carrying outside the home. CCW holders challenging the city’s regulation barring firearms on public transportation made a similar argument.
The Heller Argument Against Ammo Restrictions
Heller and the other plaintiffs make a common-sense argument: a person’s ability to utilize their Second Amendment rights and carry a firearm for self-defense is rendered useless when they’re limited to carrying firearms that hold 10 rounds or less.
It’s important to note the city adopted these ammunition limits based on the Chief of Police’s arbitrary discretion.
Plaintiffs, however, do challenge DCMR 24-2343.1. As originally adopted via a Notice of Emergency and Proposed Rulemaking (“Emergency Notice”) on October 31, 2014, this regulation provided, “A person issued a concealed carry license by the Chief, while carrying the pistol, shall not carry more ammunition than is required to render the pistol fully loaded, and in no event shall that amount be greater than ten (10) rounds of ammunition.” See N0050304, 61 DRC 11519. The emergency regulation was adopted without any discussion of the substance of this particular regulation or justification of the limitations set forth therein. Apparently, it was the arbitrary determination of the Chief.
What’s even more concerning? The city bars concealed carriers from carrying more than 20 rounds. That’s because DC regulations indicate a person can only carry enough rounds to reload two magazines. The city caps a magazine at 10 rounds because of its “high capacity” magazine ban.
Heller’s attorney, George L. Lyon Jr., told The Epoch Times that DC’s ammo restrictions are “obviously unconstitutional” because there is “no historical analog for a limit on the amount of ammunition that you can carry for self-defense.”
“You should be able to carry the amount of ammunition that you believe you need in order to protect yourself, and that may vary,” he explained. “If I go to walk my dog at noon in my nice area … I’m probably good with my five-shot revolver and one-speed load, which is what is allowed to me if I’m carrying that gun in the District of Columbia.”
Where We Go From Here
Attorney George Lyon Jr. is representing the plaintiffs in this case and the plaintiffs in the DC Metro case. Because there are so many unconstitutional regulations in place, Lyon is filing multiple lawsuits.
“There’s a lot wrong with D.C. gun laws, and I think it’s probably best to take them one at a time,” the attorney told the Epoch Times. “That’s why in the Metro carry lawsuit, the only thing I’m attacking is the part that I think is the absolute weakest.
“One of the mistakes that has been made in some litigation is to try and do too much and [end up] not accomplishing much. It’s easy to convince the judge that there’s one thing that’s wrong; it’s a lot harder to convince the judge that there are 15 things wrong,” he explained.
“My belief is that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time,” Lyon stated.