updated 2/8/2008 9:38:48 PM ET 2008-02-09T02:38:48

Vice President Dick Cheney took the unusual step Friday of joining with lawmakers in signing a Supreme Court brief that goes further in support of gun rights than the one submitted by the Bush administration.

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The filings were made in a case that challenges the District of Columbia's ban on handguns. It was scheduled to be argued on March 18.

Both briefs argue that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns. However, the administration contends that too categorical a ruling could threaten other federal gun restrictions and wants the justices to send the case back to lower courts without deciding whether the handgun ban should fall.

Cheney joined more than 300 senators and representatives, led by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who want the court to rule that Washington's ban is unconstitutional.

"The vice president believes strongly in Second Amendment rights," Cheney spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said.

Seventeen Democratic lawmakers and District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton urged the court to uphold the ban.

Lawyers with long experience at the court could not recall another case in which a vice president took a position different from that of his own administration.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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