DC's 'good reason' concealed carry restriction ruled unconstitutional
A Washington, D.C. law that kept gun owners from carrying a handgun unless they had "good reason" has been struck down by a federal appeals court.
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ordered lower courts to block enforcement of the law.
"At the Second Amendment's core lies the right of responsible citizens to carry firearms for personal self-defense beyond the home, subject to longstanding restrictions," Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote in the majority opinion. "These traditional limits include, for instance, licensing requirements, but not bans on carrying in urban areas like D.C. or bans on carrying absent a special need for self-defense."
The ruling is the latest blow to the District's efforts to curtail gun possession and use. The Supreme Court struck down the city's near total ban on firearms possession in 2008, and a federal court blocked an effort to ban the carrying of firearms in public in 2014.
The D.C. Council responded to that ruling with its "good reason" regulations, which require residents to prove they have a "good reason to fear injury" or another "proper reason," such as a job that requires carrying large amounts of cash or valuables, in order to get a concealed carry permit.
Under the city's law, living in a high-crime neighborhood was not reason enough to justify approval of a concealed carry permit.
Gun owners said the ban was so restrictive that most law-abiding citizens would be unable to obtain permits.
The regulations also have come under attack by federal lawmakers concerned that they couldn't carry firearms in the nation's capital after a gunman in June opened fire on members of Congress during baseball practice in Virginia.
As of June 3, the Metropolitan Police Department reported receiving 606 concealed carry applications, granting 125 permits and denying 403.
"To be sure, the good-reason law leaves each D.C. resident some remote chance of one day carrying in self-defense, but that isn't the question," Judge Griffith wrote. "The Second Amendment doesn't secure a right to have some chance at self-defense. Again, at a minimum the Amendment's core must protect carrying given the risks and needs typical of law-abiding citizens. That is a right that most D.C. residents can never exercise, by the law's very design."
Circuit Court Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson dissented, writing that her fellow judges were stretching gun rights well beyond home protection, which she said was the real core of the Second Amendment.
She said city lawmakers had important government goals that were supported by the law – "the prevention of crime and the promotion of public safety" – that justify its strict licensing scheme.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine called the city's law "a common-sense gun regulation." He said four other federal appeals courts have ruled in favor of similar restrictions elsewhere.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who helped craft the original regulations, urged city attorneys to seek a review of the ruling by the full D.C. Circuit – where Democrat-appointed judges hold a 7-4 majority. All three judges who heard the concealed carry cases were appointed by Republican presidents.
At its core, the "good reason" law was just another effort by anti-gun activists to deny a citizen his constitutional right to carry. There is no "public safety" issue that would justify curtailing one's Second Amendment right – especially when examined next to the "personal safety" standard.
That the court recognized this is heartening. But if the D.C. City Council decides to take the case before the full appeals court, it is not likely to fare as well. If this decision is reversed, the case is likely to end up before the Supreme Court.
In a statement following the ruling, D.C. Council chairman Paul Mendelson expressed the mythological belief in why citizens shouldn't carry firearms:
"Accepting this without appeal would make the District an outlier among the states, and not in a good way, on this important issue of public safety," said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat. "I know Second Amendment advocates claim that allowing the possession and carrying of firearms promotes public safety. But all of the gun violence in our city is by people carrying firearms. This is why some regulation – like requiring a good reason to have a license to carry – is necessary."
Gun violence happens because people carry guns? Really? Sheesh.
Anti-gun advocates are becoming more and more creative, trying to carve out exceptions to the Second Amendment. So far, courts have mostly ruled in favor of gun rights. But laws with strictures like the "good reason" standard will continue to bedevil supporters of gun rights, as anti-gun extremists test the boundaries of how far courts will go to curtail – or expand – Second Amendment rights.