The District's interim attorney general yesterday said the city's Supreme Court fight to maintain its 30-year-old ban on handguns has prompted hundreds of organizations and individuals to throw in their two cents.
The case has gained national notice as more than 300 members of Congress, 46 states, two former U.S. attorneys general and two former U.S. solicitors general have filed more than 70 briefs against or in support of the ban.
"Our team read and reread over 50 briefs that were filed both on behalf of the respondents and on behalf of [the District] from around the country," interim D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles said. "This is a case that has drawn national — international — attention."
The District yesterday filed its last brief in the case — a three-pronged argument that says the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies to militias and not individuals.
The brief also argues that the gun ban does not infringe on the Second Amendment because states are allowed to enact firearm regulations, and that the ban is a reasonable restriction permitted under the Constitution.
Oral arguments, led on the District's behalf by former U.S. Solicitor General Walter E. Dellinger III, are scheduled to be heard March 18.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has sided with the District in efforts to uphold the ban, while Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell backs respondent Dick Anthony Heller.
Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, signed a brief along with 304 other members of Congress that argues against the gun ban. That brief also was backed by eight Republican members of Congress and by one Virginia Democrat, Rep. Frederick C. Boucher.
Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Republican, was the only federal lawmaker from Maryland to sign the brief.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, signed a brief in favor of the gun ban with 17 other members of Congress, including Virginia Rep. James P. Moran and Maryland Rep. Albert R. Wynn, both Democrats.
A spokesman for Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, said Mr. Kaine supports Second Amendment rights but that they are "subject to reasonable regulation."
"He has not gone that far" to say that he does not want to see the ban overturned, Kaine spokesman Gordon Hickey said. "He is not the governor of D.C."
Calls made to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley were not returned yesterday.
Mr. Nickles said he is confident the District can win the high court case, calling the city's brief "the gold standard." He said officials will convene to determine how to regulate handguns if the city loses the case, but said that scenario is "Plan B, way down in the bottom drawer."
The case against the ban arose when the District in September appealed a year-old ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that found restricting residents from keeping guns in their homes is unconstitutional.
The Circuit Court's ruling overturned a previous decision in U.S. District Court against six D.C. residents who in 2003 sued the city to keep handguns in their home for protection.