The city of Washington is asking the US Supreme Court to uphold a three-decade ban on handguns in the nation’s capital in a case that could have ramifications on gun control laws in other states.

The US high court has not ruled since 1939 on any cases involving the right to bear arms, a hot-button issue which is protected by the second amendment to the constitution.

The capital bans all handguns unless they were registered before 1976.

But an appeals court ruled in March that the District of Columbia’s ban on keeping handguns inside private homes was unconstitutional, following a case brought by six Washington residents who said they wanted handguns in their homes for self-defense.

Although that ruling did not apply to carrying handguns in the street, which is also banned in Washington, Mayor Adrian Fenty vowed to take the case to the nation’s highest court in the name of safeguarding the public.

“We are willing to take our case to the highest court in the land to protect the city’s residents,” Fenty said in a statement received by AFP on Tuesday.

“Our handgun law has saved countless lives — keeping guns out of the hands of those who would hurt others or themselves.”

If the Supreme Court reverses the ban, observers warn the impact could be felt in other major cities with strict gun laws, such as Chicago, New York and Detroit.

The powerful National Rifle Association opposes most gun restrictions as violation of the second amendment, which states: “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.”

Critics of the Washington ban say it is ineffective, noting the crime rate in the nation’s capital is much higher than the national average, with 169 murders in 2006, 137 of which were committed with handguns.

The case is to be brought before the Supreme Court on September 5.

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