No Good Reason for D.C.’s Concealed Carry Restriction

“The point of the Amendment isn’t to ensure that some guns would find their way into D.C., but that guns would be available to each responsible citizen as a rule.”  — Judge Thomas B. Griffith, D.C. Appellate Court

Time to mark one in the ‘WIN’ column for defenders of the Second Amendment!

American Joe FJG pistol set

Once upon a time, the District of Columbia had a total ban on handguns, even in the home. This clearly unconstitutional law was struck down with the District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) ruling, when the Supreme Court finally officially recognized that “the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms.” So, the District passed the Firearms Registration Amendment Act, providing for “a new scheme for regulating firearms.” Applicants who were not retired police could only register pistols “for use in self-defense within the registrant’s home,” thus no carrying firearms outside one’s home.

Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., temporarily assigned to D.C. from the New York District Court, ruled in Palmer v. District of Columbia (2014) that “the carrying of an operable handgun outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense” was covered by the Second Amendment, which meant that D.C.’s “complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public [was] unconstitutional.” The District responded by enacting a concealed carry licensing scheme (eff. June 16, 2015), which included a multitude of hurdles through which applicants had to jump.

Well-meaning people might differ on which requirements are reasonable and constitutional, if any. The specific one we are interested in, however, is the so-called “good reason” provision. This provision states that the Police Chief “may issue” a concealed carry permit to otherwise qualified applicants only if they can demonstrate (in writing) “good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property or has any other proper reason for carrying a pistol….” The criteria issued by Chief Cathy Lanier for “fear of injury” were

“at a minimum [to] require a showing of a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks that demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life.”

The criteria for “proper reason[s]” were

“at a minimum [to] include types of employment that require the handling of cash or other valuable objects that may be transported upon the applicant’s person.”

Also of note is the following:

“The fact that a person resides in or is employed in a high crime area shall not by itself establish a good reason to fear injury to person or property for the issuance of a concealed carry license.”

In May 2016, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon weighed in on the issue. In his Memorandum Opinion accompanying a grant for preliminary injunction for the plaintiffs in Grace v. District of Columbia, Leon concluded,

“Because the right to bear arms includes the right to carry firearms for self-defense both in and outside the home, I find that the District’s ‘good reason’ requirement likely places an unconstitutional burden on this right.”

He also issued an order forbidding the District authorities from “denying concealed carry licenses to applicants who meet all eligibility requirements other than the ‘good reason’ requirement.”

The above doesn’t cover every single move in the back-n-forth history of gun laws in D.C., but it should provide enough background. Now, the latest development has the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit voting 2-to-1 against D.C.’s system of gun laws and its “good reason” requirement. As per Ann E. Marimow of the Washington Post:

“‘The good-reason law is necessarily a total ban on most D.C. residents’ right to carry a gun in the face of ordinary self-defense needs,’ wrote Judge Thomas B. Griffith, who was joined by Judge Stephen F. Williams. ‘Bans on the ability of most citizens to exercise an enumerated right would have to flunk any judicial test.’…

The ruling follows proposals from Republican members of Congress that would require the District to honor concealed-carry permits from other states in the wake of a June shooting at a GOP congressional baseball practice….

The ruling from the three-judge panel gives city officials 30 days to decide whether to appeal for review by a full complement of D.C. Circuit judges. If the court does not agree to revisit the case, the order to permanently block enforcement of the ‘good reason’ requirement would take effect seven days later.

Adam Winkler, a University of California at Los Angeles law professor who has written extensively on the Second Amendment, said he expects the full D.C. Circuit will put Tuesday’s decision on hold.

‘Given the importance of this issue and the prospect that so many of the judges on the D.C. court might not want guns on their streets, they are likely to take this case,’ Winkler said….

The Supreme Court has turned down attempts to challenge decisions by other circuit courts that upheld similar concealed-carry restrictions in Maryland and New Jersey. In June, the high court also declined to review a California concealed-carry law. In that case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said the Second Amendment does not protect the right to carry a concealed weapon in public….

Clark Neily of the Cato Institute, and one of the lawyers in the earlier challenge to D.C.’s handgun ban, praised the D.C. Circuit ruling Tuesday as ‘thoroughly researched and carefully reasoned’ and said it would ‘make an ideal vehicle for the Supreme Court to finally decide whether the Second Amendment applies outside the home.'”

Assuming the odds are in favor of a pro-2nd Amendment win as Neily seems to think, I sincerely hope that the case does go to the Supreme Court, so that another absurd and unconstitutional class of laws can be eliminated from the lawbooks (except for historical reference, of course). One day, hopefully Americans in every state can once again defend themselves with firearms whenever and wherever they may be.

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