Bloomberg Law
July 19, 2019, 3:59 PM

Firearms Ban Covering U.S. Capitol Grounds Upheld on Appeal

Mike Leonard
Mike Leonard
Legal Intelligence Reporter

The firearms ban covering U.S. Capitol grounds doesn’t violate due process or the Second Amendment, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the law July 19, denying a challenge by Rodney Class, who pleaded guilty after being found in a car with three guns in a parking area serving the Capitol.

The court had previously held that Class waived his appeal rights, but the U.S. Supreme Court revived the case last year, saying his constitutional arguments couldn’t be waived through a guilty plea.

On remand, the D.C. Circuit confronted those arguments, dismissing each one.

Judge Thomas B. Griffith, writing for the court, said the ban was “presumptively lawful” under the “sensitive places” exception to the general Second Amendment rule protecting the right to carry guns in public. Although the street where Class parked is about 1,000 feet from the Capitol, it’s government-owned property set aside for Congress and its staff, making it “a potential stalking ground,” Griffith said.

“The operation of the national legislature depends” on members of Congress being able to “freely and safely travel to and from work,” he wrote.

Class argued that the parking area where he was arrested isn’t eligible for the sensitive-places exception because it’s only been part of the Capitol grounds since 1980. The sensitive places rule only applies to “longstanding” bans, he said.

The D.C. Circuit disagreed.

“The relevant inquiry is whether a particular type of regulation has been a ‘longstanding’ exception,” Griffith wrote. “A new post office is no less a government building than one built in 1789.”

The court rejected Class’s contention that the ban interferes with the ability of Washington residents to carry guns for self-defense due to the large size and central location of the Capitol grounds.

“Nothing about the ban prevents a person” from taking an alternate route, Griffith wrote.

Nor was the court convinced by Class’s argument that the average person lacks the ability to determine where the Capitol grounds end, which requires consulting two federal laws that cross-reference each other and a map.

Although those steps aren’t “the most straightforward,” people are presumed to know the law, Griffith said.

Judges David B. Sentelle and Sri Srinavasan joined the ruling.

Jenner & Block represented Class. The U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia represented the government.

The case is U.S. v. Class, D.C. Cir., No. 15-3015, 7/19/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Leonard in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at; Patrick L. Gregory at