In a long-standing case of Second Amendment rights versus firearms control, the District of Columbia and six individual plaintiffs have reached a settlement. The settlement, which was granted preliminary approval earlier this week, would see the District pay over $5.1 million to the plaintiffs and cover their legal fees.
The case originated back in June 2014 when several of the plaintiffs were arrested in the District for breaking gun control laws that have since been ruled unconstitutional. The arrested individuals, who ranged from Maryland and Virginia to North Carolina, were stopped for a variety of reasons and had informed police officers of firearms in their vehicles. Charges against the individuals were eventually dropped but the detentions and gun confiscation remained in place.
In a 2021 ruling, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth determined that the District’s gun laws—which included a ban on the carrying of handguns outside of the home—were unconstitutional and violated the Second Amendment. He also noted that the defendants were unable to take any action to avoid running afoul of the laws in question.
The settlement comes shortly after the Supreme Court ruled in the case of NYSRPA v. Bruen that the ability to carry firearms outside of the home is part of Second Amendment rights. Prior to the decision in the Bruen case, gun control advocates had convinced other lower-level courts to disagree with the arguments presented in the Palmer case—a different court case that was based on the same set of facts as the present lawsuit.
The case was settled for a total of $5.1 million, with each of the named plaintiffs receiving $50,000 and the remaining money being paid as compensation to the members of the larger class of affected gun owners.
The settlement serves as a reminder that while the Heller and Bruen decisions are significant victories for those who support gun rights, the laws of DC have yet to fully change to reflect the Court’s decisions. The District continues to require a permit to carry concealed firearms, and its policy of “may issue” creates significant limits to gun ownership rights that different states or even cities do not enforce.
Today’s settlement will help right the wrongs committed against the individuals involved in this case, but the District’s restrictive gun control regime remains largely in place. It’s up to legislators in the nation’s capital to take further steps to protect gun owners’ rights.