Federal judge overturns Washington DC ban on guns in public

A customer shops for a handgun on June 16, 2014 in Tinley Park, Illinois (AFP Photo/Scott Olson)

Washington (AFP) - A federal judge ruled that the ban on citizens carrying handguns in public in the US capital is unconstitutional.

In a 19-page opinion, Judge Frederick Scullin ruled on Saturday that "there is no longer any basis on which this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia's total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny.

"Therefore, the Court finds that the District of Columbia's complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional."

It is unclear if the defendants -- the District of Columbia as represented by Police Chief Cathy Lanier -- will appeal the ruling.

The lawsuit plaintiffs included two Washington residents who were denied permits to openly carry handguns for self-defense.

Washington DC, the District of Columbia, is wedged between the states of Virginia -- which allows people to openly carry a gun -- and Maryland, which has stricter rules on gun ownership.

Currently 44 of the 50 US states allow people to openly carry handguns.

In his ruling Scullin made reference to the 2008 US Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the plaintiff argued that the city's ban on firearm ownership -- one of the strictest in the nation -- was unconstitutional.

In a 5-4 decision the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Dick Anthony Heller, a local police officer who wanted to have a private weapon at home.

Americans for years have been attempting to balance the rights in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution with the authority of local officials to limit gun use and ownership.

The Second Amendment, approved in 1791, reads: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."