The man behind the most consequential gun-rights case in American history is back in court.
Dick Heller, who got the Supreme Court to strike down the District of Columbia’s total ban on handguns, is now suing the city over its total ban on firearms manufacturing. His new lawsuit, filed Wednesday, alleges the District’s gun-making ban violates the Second Amendment.
“You can’t even make your own gun,” Heller told The Reload. “That’s an infringement.”
He called the prohibition “nonsensical” and questioned what else the city might try to ban.
“That’s like saying you can’t make a knife; you can’t build a car,’ Heller said. “Can I carve a baseball bat? A baseball bat is a deadly weapon in certain conditions.”
Part of the city’s law targets unfinished firearms parts used by DIY builders to create unserialized guns. The practice of building guns at home has been legal since the founding of the country but has become increasingly controversial in recent years with the advent of 3D printing and other technologies that have lowered the barrier for entry to making firearms at home. Gun-control activists and politicians alike, including President Joe Biden (D.), have labeled unserialized homemade guns “ghost guns” in recent years and sought to outlaw their production.
Proponents of so-called ghost-gun bans claim homemade firearms end up in the hands of criminals, while opponents point out the long tradition of American’s manufacturing their own firearms. Prohibitions on homemade guns have become increasingly common in various parts of the country in recent years, but they remain hotly contested. Washington, D.C.’s ban goes further, not just banning personal production of firearms without serial numbers but even production by licensed manufacturers.
“If an item cannot be produced, the people cannot acquire it, keep it, or bear it,” the plaintiffs said in the suit. “We know of no other jurisdiction in the United States that has purported to ban the manufacture of firearms.”
In addition to challenging the ban on manufacturing firearms, the plaintiffs allege that D.C.’s statutory definition of “ghost gun” is overbroad and could even outlaw guns used by the city’s own law enforcement.
“Never missing an opportunity for erroneously defining firearms terminology, the District legislation in question is so poorly thought out and written that the City Council has managed to criminalize the possession of a vast array of popular, common handguns that it regularly allows residents to register, including the very handgun it issues to its police officers,” they said in the suit. “Accordingly, this so-called “Ghost Gun” prohibition is hopelessly flawed and must be found invalid under the Second and Fifth Amendments.”
The filing of the lawsuit represents the fourth time that Heller has challenged the District of Columbia in court over gun restrictions. After his landmark victory at the Supreme Court in 2008, Heller challenged Washington D.C.’s law requiring gun registration and its ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. He eventually lost in the D.C. Circuit Court in 2011. However, he again sued D.C. over aspects of its gun registration scheme and had four separate registration provisions struck down by the D.C. Circuit in 2015.
Heller admitted his track record on gun cases wasn’t perfect but said even the later cases produced tangible results.
“We lost seven elements, but we gained seven elements,” he said. “We don’t have to register every three years. So, there’s meat there.”
He said he’s even more confident this case will succeed. But he also said he’s grown tired of the city’s constant attempts to restrict gun ownership.
“More and more, I find that we have regulations that have no foundation in science,” Heller said. “It’s just, ‘we don’t like rifles with pistol grips because we don’t like them, and it’s something we might be able to get away with banning.’ And sure as shit, they pass the law, and they’re banned. And now it costs us $1.2 million again to unban it. That’s the attitude they have.”
Heller said he ultimately viewed the continuous march of new gun restrictions as a form of corruption, and he is committed to challenging all the ones he can.
“Corruption to me is like red in front of a bull’s face,” he said.
Neither Mayor Muriel Bowser (D.) nor Attorney General Karl Racine (D.) responded to a request for comment.
Stephen Gutowski contributed to this report.