In the ruling, the US District Court of Columbia rejected city officials' arguments that the Second Amendment right to bear arms only applied to state militias.
District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty told reporters Friday afternoon that the District will appeal the ruling. In a 2-1 decision, the judges held that the activities protected by the Second Amendment "are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued intermittent enrollment in the militia."
"This is a huge case," Alan Gura, the plaintiffs' lead lawyer, told FOXNews.com Friday afternoon. "It's simply about whether law-abiding citizens can maintain a functioning firearm, including a handgun, inside their house." Gura said his six clients, all Washington residents, challenged three separate District of Columbia laws: A 31-year-old law that prevents handgun registration; a law that requires rifles and shotguns to be either disassembled or disabled when being stored; and a law that requires a permit to carry a gun in your own home.
Gura said the law does not affect law that governs concealed carry permits outside the home.
"I don't see this going into effect immediately, but certainly, you know, when it does go into effect, our clients, as well as everyone in Washington, will be able to have a handgun and maintain their home without having a permit to move it around in their home," Gura said.
The case began five years ago. In 2004, a lower court judge lower-court judge said the plaintiffs did not have a constitutional right to own handguns. The plaintiffs include residents of high-crime neighborhoods who wanted the guns for protection. "The district's definition of the militia is just too narrow," Judge Laurence Silberman wrote for the majority on Friday. "There are too many instances of 'bear arms' indicating private use to conclude that the drafters intended only a military sense." Judge Karen Henderson dissented, writing that the Second Amendment does not apply to the district because it is not a state.
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, in its entirety, states: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Gura predicted that the case, because of clear arguments, can now be used in other federal cases to support Second Amendment arguments that citizens have the "right to keep and bear arms." "This case will have significant impact beyond the District of Columbia," Gura said. He did not know if any other cases would be affected immediately by the decision.
Silberman wrote that the Second Amendment is still "subject to the same sort of reasonable restrictions that have been recognized as limiting, for instance, the First Amendment."
Such restrictions might include gun registration to provide the government with information about how many people would be armed if militia service was required, firearms testing to promote public safety or restrictions on gun ownership for criminals or those deemed mentally ill.