Arsenal Attorneys’ George L. Lyon, Jr and Matthew J. Bergstrom, on behalf of client Dick Heller (of District of Columbia v. Heller fame) and two other plaintiffs successfully challenged the District of Columbia’s so-called ghost gun statute. As a result, District residents will have the freedom to make their own firearms, subject to DC’s registration requirement and placing a serial number on the firearm.
The District has since 1976 banned the manufacture of a firearm in the city, a plainly unconstitutional prohibition. In 2019, the District passed its so-called ghost gun statute which criminalized the possession of “unfinished” receivers. According to Mr. Lyon, “DC so broadly defined a ghost gun that it likely unintentionally outlawed most polymer frame handguns, including the very Glock handguns the city issues to its own police officers.”
Arsenal Attorneys and Dick Heller determined to challenge the District’s plainly unconstitutional prohibition on self-made firearms. Mr. Heller ordered a Polymer 80 (unfinished receiver) kit and had the kit sent to one of the District’s FFLs in anticipation of registering it. The FFL in turn inquired of the Metropolitan Police Department as to how to handle the matter and was told that the kit was illegal and to send it back to the vendor.
In response, Mr. Heller sued in Federal District Court for the violation of his constitutional rights. Two other District residents who own polymer frame handguns sued on the grounds that the District law appeared to criminalize their possession of their legally acquired and registered polymer framed pistols.
The District, concluding that the law was indefensible, enacted temporary legislation to address the plaintiff’s claims. Among the changes the District made to its law was a provision allowing District residents to make their own firearms subject to registration and placing a serial number on the self-made firearm. Additionally, the District repealed the ban on unfinished receivers and amended its definition of “undetectable” firearm to avoid criminalizing the possession of polymer frame receivers.
The District’s City Council is currently considering a bill to permanently repeal the offending provisions.
As compensation for the denial of Mr. Heller’s civil rights, without admitting liability, the District paid the Heller Foundation $5,000, a nonprofit dedicated to education on gun rights and safety. The District also paid plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and costs in bringing the action in the amount of some $81,000.
Arsenal Attorneys is preparing additional litigation related to DC’s unconstitutional firearms regulations. If you are interested in becoming a plaintiff in one or more of these cases, please contact us.
Arsenal Attorneys is a nationwide law firm headquartered near Washington, DC in Fairfax, Virginia. The firm offers services in estate planning, criminal defense, civil litigation, business law, firearms law, and its proprietary Arsenal Gun Trust. George Lyon is licensed to practice law in Virginia and the District of Columbia. He was one of the plaintiffs in Palmer v. District of Columbia that forced DC to begin issuing concealed carry licenses and in the US Supreme Court's landmark Second Amendment decision, Heller, which legalized handguns in Washington, DC. Mr. Lyon is licensed by the Metropolitan Police Department to teach the DC Concealed Carry License course including the renewal course and conducts the course monthly. His next class will be May 21-22. Class will be conducted online in light of continuing COVID 19 health issues, with the shooting portion of the course arranged by appointment. To sign up for his course, contact Mr. Lyon at email@example.com or at 202-669-0442.