Washington Gun Law

Unconstitutional Gun Laws in Washington DC: Lives Ruined and a Costly Settlement

Video Highlights

  • The District of Columbia reached a settlement with multiple plaintiffs who were jailed under unconstitutional gun laws, costing them $5.1 million.
  • The lead plaintiff, Maggie Smith, was a nurse from North Carolina who was arrested and had her nursing license threatened for lawfully possessing a firearm during a routine traffic stop.
  • Another plaintiff, Jared Kasignol, had his life turned upside down when he was arrested, jailed, and lost his security clearance for possessing a locked firearm in his car during a routine traffic stop.
  • The District of Columbia argued that the plaintiffs should have known they couldn't bring firearms into the city or apply for permits, but at the time, permits were not even issued to out-of-state residents.
  • The majority of the settlement money, $1.9 million, will go to attorneys, while the rest will be distributed among over 3,000 people who qualify for the class action.

Video Summary

In a recent settlement, the District of Columbia will be paying a substantial sum of money to plaintiffs who were jailed and had their lives turned upside down due to the enforcement of unconstitutional gun laws. The settlement amount is $5.1 million, which may seem significant, but is actually inadequate considering the harm caused to the individuals involved. The only ones benefiting from this settlement are the lawyers, while the plaintiffs receive a mere fraction of the total amount.

The history of gun laws in Washington DC is long and troubling. Prior to the landmark Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008, there was a law in place that prohibited anyone from owning a handgun. This law was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, as it violated the Second Amendment rights of individuals. However, even after the Heller decision, Washington DC continued to enforce and defend other unconstitutional gun laws, leading to further legal challenges.

One such case that emerged after Heller was Paul Palmer v. District of Columbia in 2017. In this case, thousands of individuals were contacted by law enforcement, arrested, and thrown into jail for simply possessing firearms that they lawfully owned and were in compliance with their respective state laws. These individuals had their lives turned upside down, facing prosecution and the loss of their personal and professional reputations.

The lead plaintiff in this settlement, Maggie Smith, a nurse from North Carolina with no criminal history, was driving through the District of Columbia when she was pulled over for a routine traffic violation. She openly admitted to law enforcement that she was in possession of a firearm, which she owned lawfully and was compliant with North Carolina law. Despite her honesty, she was arrested, spent the night in jail, and had to fight to maintain her nursing license due to the conviction.

Another plaintiff, Jared Kasignol, worked in Northern Virginia but lived in Maryland. His daily commute home took him through the District of Columbia. When he was pulled over for a routine traffic violation, he disclosed the presence of a firearm in his car and even provided the law enforcement officers with the combination to the safe where it was stored. The firearm was locked in a separate container in the trunk of his car, in accordance with the law. However, he too was arrested, jailed for two days, and ultimately lost his security clearance, causing significant professional ramifications.

Throughout these cases, the District of Columbia argued that the plaintiffs should have known better than to bring firearms into the city or should have applied for permits. However, at the time, the District of Columbia was not issuing permits to its own residents, let alone out-of-state individuals. The court recognized that there were no actions the plaintiffs could have taken during the time period in question that would have allowed them to legally carry a gun for self-defense in the District of Columbia.

The settlement amount of $5.1 million may seem substantial, but when broken down, it becomes clear that the lawyers are the ones profiting the most. Out of the total settlement, only $300,000 will go to the six plaintiffs, while $1.9 million will be allocated for attorney's fees. The majority of the remaining amount will be set aside for the estimated 3,000 individuals who qualify for the class-action lawsuit. It is disheartening to see that the individuals who suffered the most due to these unconstitutional gun laws are not adequately compensated.

It is worth noting that the District of Columbia's budget is likely much larger than the $5.1 million settlement. Therefore, this amount does not have a significant impact on the city's finances. To truly send a message to government entities that knowingly pass unconstitutional gun laws, the settlement amount should have been much higher, perhaps around $150 million. It is crucial to hold these entities accountable and ensure that they face severe consequences when their laws are struck down.

This case highlights the importance of being aware of the law and how it applies to each individual. As responsible gun owners, it is essential to understand the regulations and rights pertaining to firearms in order to avoid unnecessary legal trouble. The District of Columbia's unconstitutional gun laws have not only ruined lives but have also infringed on individuals' Second Amendment rights. It is crucial to continue advocating for the protection of these rights and holding government entities accountable for their actions.