U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth gave preliminary approval to a $5.1 million class action settlement between Washington, D.C., and gun owners who were arrested under laws that have since been found to violate the Second Amendment, the Washington Post reports. Lamberth had ruled in September 2021 that D.C. arrested, jailed, prosecuted and seized guns from six people “based on an unconstitutional set of laws” and violated their Second Amendment rights. The laws — a ban on carrying handguns outside the home and others that effectively banned nonresidents from carrying guns at all in D.C. — have since been struck down in federal court.
D.C. will pay a total of $300,000 to the six plaintiffs and $1.9 million in attorneys fees, with the majority of the rest of the money set aside for more than 3,000 people estimated to qualify for the class-action. The settlement agreement must still have a “fairness hearing” in December before final approval is given. The settlement agreement follows litigation in several major federal court cases over the last 15 years that have led judges to strike down highly restrictive D.C. gun laws, slowly leading to more legal gun ownership in a city where illegal weapons have dominated. For years, most D.C. residents could not even own guns in their homes, let alone possess them in public. But that changed with the seminal 2008 Second Amendment Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, which invalidated D.C.’s handgun ban. A succession of court rulings chipped away at other restrictive D.C. laws.