August 31, 2023
A recent decision by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., just might go a long way toward deterring cities from passing anti-gun laws that they know are unconstitutional but choose to pass anyway. As a little background, Judge Royce Lamberth, U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia, had ruled back in 2021 that D.C. police arrested gun owners based on “an unconstitutional set of laws," including a ban on carrying handguns outside the home. Now, Lamberth is making D.C. pay for those unconstitutional arrests and prosecutions.
On Aug. 28, Judge Lamberth gave preliminary approval to a settlement agreement in which D.C. will pay $5.1 million as part of a class-action settlement with gun owners who were arrested for such laws. Because of the approval, D.C. will pay a total of $300,000 to the six plaintiffs ($50,000 each) and $1.9 million in attorney fees, with most of the rest of the money set aside for an estimated 3,000 other people who qualify for the class-action.
The six plaintiffs include four non-D.C. residents. The lead plaintiff in the case, Maggie Smith, was a nurse from North Carolina when she was pulled over for a routine traffic stop in June 2014. Upon informing officers that she had a firearm in the vehicle and was licensed to carry it in her home state, she was arrested, her gun was seized and she spent the night in jail. Other plaintiffs had similar experiences, with some even losing their jobs because of their arrest by D.C. police. The charges were dropped after the ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia, which held that the District of Columbia’s complete ban on carrying a gun outside the home was unconstitutional. Plaintiffs subsequently filed the lawsuit in 2015.
As most Firearms News readers are aware, for years D.C. law forbade residents to even own guns in their home, much less carry them for self-defense. But a series of important Supreme Court cases, including last year’s ruling in New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, has made the District much more gun friendly. One can only hope that leaders in other anti-gun cities dead set on passing more gun restrictions that infringe upon the Second Amendment will take note of this large payout and consider it next time they have the opportunity to pass yet another unconstitutional law. , Unfortunately, since the money doesn’t come out of the pockets of these cynical anti-gun politicians, it’s more likely that they’ll just shrug their shoulders, pass their new restrictions and let taxpayers foot the bills if they are ever ordered to right their wrongs.
About the Author
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years.
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