The man behind the Supreme Court’s first landmark Second Amendment ruling is cheering its second and hoping to create a third.
Dick Heller, the namesake for the Court’s 2008 ruling, which struck down Washington, D.C.’s total ban on handguns, said he felt vindicated by its latest gun ruling. He said the decision in last month’s New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen was a direct descendant of Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in his own case, where the Court recognized the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms.
“That’s a good way to put it,” Heller told The Reload. “After that magnificent Scalia decision, everything just started to snowball because it basically gave permission to the rest of the populace to challenge their infringements. Because they realized it could be done. They could fight city hall and win.”
Heller, a former paratrooper in the 101st Airborne, was first motivated to challenge the city’s gun laws after a series of shootings at his Capitol Hill home in the 1970s. By the time he filed his landmark case, he’d become a Special Police Officer working at the Supreme Court annex after spending time as a data technician at NASA and an investment banker. He had also become involved with the D.C. Libertarian Party and started a stint as the group’s treasurer in 2004.
Now the prolific litigant has set yet another date with D.C.’s city hall. His new suit challenges D.C.’s ban on carrying more than twice the number of rounds a licensed individual’s gun can hold, with an overall 20-round cap. It is the fifth suit against the city’s gun laws Heller has been involved with, including a recent successful foray against the city’s initial “ghost gun” ban.
“My rant is where does the state get the power to whimsically say, ‘Oh, you can have two and a half bullets?'” Heller said.
He called the city’s ammo limit “totally irrational” and said it shouldn’t be allowed to stand.
“If George can carry 20 bullets, why can I only carry 12?” Heller said. “And then why is George limited to 20? Why is he limited to a ten-round magazine?”
George Lyon, a Second Amendment lawyer representing Heller in the ammo case, said the city’s law lacks the “historical analogue” federal courts will look for under the new Bruen standard. He also argued the limit puts law-abiding gun carriers at a disadvantage to criminals–a disadvantage the city does not put on its police.
“D.C. police are required to carry 52 rounds when they go out on patrol,” Lyon told The Reload. “When I walk my dog in the middle of the night with my 5-shot Heller Commemorative Revolver, I’m limited to 10 rounds. How’s that going to work out if I’m jumped by multiple attackers, as happens quite often in the District of Columbia?”
But Heller isn’t the only one suing the city over its gun-carry restrictions in the wake of the Bruen ruling. Lyon also represents four D.C. residents who are challenging the city’s ban on carrying guns on public transit, even if the carrier has a valid concealed-carry license. He argued the Metro ban was similarly lacking in historical support and also put the law-abiding at greater risk, claiming even members of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) recognize the dangers.
“District concealed carry license holders filed to overturn District regulations that do nothing to promote public safety and plainly obstruct the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves from criminal attack,” Lyon said. “Crimes occur with regularity on Metro vehicles and in Metro stations. As one MPD supervisor once said to me, ‘If there’s any place you need a gun, it’s on the Metro.'”
Gabriel Shoglow-Rubenstein, Press Secretary for D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D.), said he declined to comment “on this specific pending litigation.”
Heller didn’t say if or when his fight against the city could end. But the judicial gadfly, who views the legal struggle as essential to maintaining freedom in the United States, is unlikely to quit biting at D.C.’s firearms regulations anytime soon.
“The state has no right to intrude into a free citizen’s life like they are,” Heller said.
UPDATE 7-15-2022 5:06 PM EASTERN: This story has been updated with comment from AG Racine.