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D.C. again asks judge to uphold gun laws

WASHINGTON — District of Columbia officials are again asking a judge to uphold gun registration requirements put in place after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the city’s decades-old ban on handguns in 2008.

Lawyers for the city filed a document Tuesday in federal court in Washington asking a judge to uphold requirements including that anyone who wants to register a gun must be fingerprinted and photographed and complete a safety or training course. After the Supreme Court ruling five years ago the city put in place new requirements for registering a gun in the city. Residents were limited to registering one pistol per month, and the city also banned assault weapons.

But city resident Dick Heller, who challenged the city’s handgun ban and won before the U.S. Supreme Court, was part of a group that sued again in 2008 to challenge the new requirements.

The case has yet to reach a resolution. The original judge overseeing the case upheld the city’s new limitations in a 2010 ruling, but the case was then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In 2011, a divided three-judge panel of that court upheld the city’s ban on assault weapons and magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. But the judges said the city’s “novel” registration requirements needed to be better explained in order for a court to decide whether they are permissible.

In response, the city re-examined its gun registration laws, repealing among other things requirements that gun owners undergo five hours of training and submit to a background check every six years. Other requirements remain, however, including that gun owners be fingerprinted and photographed and go through a firearms training or safety course. Residents also have to re-register firearms every three years and are still limited to registering one pistol per month, a restriction the city says helps guard against gun trafficking.

Now, officials are asking again that the requirements be upheld, saying they promote public safety and prevent crime.

“All of these requirements help reduce the diversion of guns to criminal uses and lower the risk of accidental discharge, which results in a safer public and less risk to law enforcement,” city lawyers wrote in a motion filed Tuesday.

Stephen P. Halbrook, a lawyer for the residents challenging the law, said Tuesday that his clients will file a response opposing the city’s motion by Dec. 10. He said the city’s justification for its current requirements is “weak” and that the city hasn’t showed that the requirements are substantially related to important government interests, the standard required for them to be found constitutional.