The District of Columbia appealed to the Supreme Court Tuesday, asking to uphold its decade-long ban on private ownership of handguns, paving the way for a possible Second Amendment showdown in the high court.
Attorneys representing D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty petitioned the Supreme Court in an effort to save the district's gun law, arguing that access to a handgun would be a direct threat to D.C. residents: "Whatever right the Second Amendment guarantees, it does not require the district to stand by while its citizens die."
Part of the mayor's concern is that more handguns, even legal ones, would ultimately cause more problems. "The District of Columbia has too many handguns," Fenty said. "Putting more handguns, even quote-unquote legal ones, into the quote-unquote law-abiding citizens could get into the hands of people who are going to use them in the commission of crimes."
The petition asks the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling from earlier this year that struck down the D.C. gun ban.
March Federal Court Rules on D.C. Gun Ban
The overturned law, which went into effect in 1976, banned residents from owning a handgun unless they already had a permit. In 2003 six D.C. residents challenged that law, arguing that the city violated their Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms."
On March 9, 2007, the U.S.Court of Appeals for D.C. agreed. In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals court said the Constitution's Second Amendment protects a person's right to own a gun. (Federal Court Strikes Down D.C. Gun Ban by Jan Crawford Greenburg, March 9, 2007.)
The district will argue that the Second Amendment does not prevent the city from enacting reasonable regulations to limit gun possessions in order to protect residents.
The petition raises one question, "whether the Second Amendment forbids the District of Columbia from banning private possession of handguns while allowing possession of rifles and shotguns."
Lawyers for the district say that question could allow the justices to narrowly decide the case by saying D.C. law already gives residents the ability to protect themselves with other types of weapons.
D.C. Violent Crimes on the Rise
Labor Day weekend was a grisly one for D.C. residents.
Saturday morning around 3 a.m. police discovered the body of a young man in the southeast section of the city; he had been shot a number of times. By the end of the weekend there were five murders, three by handgun. According to statistics every 48 hours a person dies in D.C. by a firearm.
Sandra Seegars, a D.C. resident for more than 50 years, wants a gun to be able to protect herself. She said that with few police officers patrolling her neighborhood she feels threatened in her own home. Seegars said if you don't want to own a gun don't get one, "but don't stop me from buying a gun just because I want one in my home."
The mayor and D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer believe the gun ban will stay in place.
"We would not have filed this with the Supreme Court if we did not think we would win," Singer told ABC News.
If the justices agree to hear the case when the 2007-08 session convenes, it will be the first time the debate takes place before the Supreme Court.
For now, the D.C. gun ban stays in effect.