Second Amendment

Parts of D.C.'s Concealed Carry Gun Permit Process Stopped by Federal Judge

Preliminary Injunction Gained by Second Amendment Foundation Against D.C. Requirement to Have "Good Reason" To Exercise Second Amendment Right.

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From a Second Amendment Foundation press release from yesterday regarding a great victory for them in the ongoing case of Wrenn v. D.C.:

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) today won a preliminary injunction against the District of Columbia and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier's enforcement of a requirement to provide a "good reason" when applying for a concealed carry permit.

Judge Frederick J. Scullin ordered that the city is "enjoined from denying handgun carry licenses to applicants who meet the requirements of D.C. Code 22-4506(a) and all other current requirements for the possession and carrying of handguns under District of Columbia law."

Judge Scullin further wrote in his 23-page opinion that the District's "good reason/proper reason" requirement "has far more than a 'de minimis' effect on [their] rights it completely bars the right from being exercised, at all times and places and in any manner, without exception" and that the requirement "impinges on Plaintiff's Second Amendment right to bear arms.'

SAF founder Alan Gottlieb said in the release that the court has "thwarted the District's blatantly obvious effort to discourage the exercise of Second Amendment rights by forcing permit applicants to jump through a series of hoops and then frustrate them by requiring an arbitrary 'good reason' for the exercise of a constitutionally-protected civil right."

I've read the 23-page decision, and it has some interesting elements, including quoting the offensive element of D.C.'s carry permit law, which says the chief of D.C.'s police department (currently Cathy Lanier, also being sued by Wrenn and SAF) may issue a concealed carry permit "if it appears that the applicant has good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property or has any other proper reason for carrying a pistol, and that he or she is a suitable person to be so licensed."

The decision also quotes from some regulations Lanier adopted for herself regarding when she'll issue that permission to have tools to defend yourself in public, including that:

a person shall allege, in writing, serious threats of death or serious bodily harm, any attacks on his or her person, or any theft of property from his or her person. The person shall also allege that the threats are of a nature that the legal possession of a pistol is necessary as a reasonable precaution against the apprehended danger. The person shall provide all evidence of contemporaneous reports to the police of such threats or attacks, and disclose whether or not the applicant has made a sworn complaint to the police or the courts of the District of Columbia concerning any threat or attack. 

"Employment of a type that requires the handling of large amounts of cash or other highly valuable objects that must be transported upon the applicant's person" might also allow you to qualify for Lanier's permission to carry a weapon.

That all seemed a bit excessive a demand for public use of a constitutional right to the plaintiffs, and Judge Scullin agreed. To get a preliminary injunction in that court, the judge said you must meet these criteria, which he believed SAF had met: 

'(1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, (2) that it would suffer irreparable injury if the injunction were not granted, (3) that an injunction would not substantially injure other interested parties, and (4) that the public interest would be furthered by the injunction.'

Part of Scullin's belief that the SAF would succeed on the merits includes pointing out that D.C. arguing that a 1857 regulation on public carry proved a "longstanding" quality of the regulation that, under the standards of a previous D.C. gun case, might have given the regulation some presumption of constitutionality.

Scullin points out that old regulation only punished public carriers if there was a legitimate specific "'complaint of any person having reasonable cause to fear an injury or breach of the peace" from the carrier, very different from D.C. current regulation.

Scullin agreed that "intermediate scrutiny" was the proper judicial standard in this case, and found that D.C.'s arguments failed to pass that test of showing they are using a law not broader than necessary to effect a legitimate public purpose:

Defendants argue that the District of Columbia's "good reason"/"proper reason" requirement relates reasonably to its interest in preventing crime and protecting public safety, they have not established that relationship.The fact that an individual may be able to demonstrate a greater need for self-protection, and therefore meets the "good reason"/"proper reason" requirement, does not indicate, in any way,whether that person is less likely to misuse handguns or may be less dangerous….Nor does the District of Columbia's "good reason"/"proper reason" requirement make it less likely that those who meet this requirement will accidently shoot themselves or others or engage in criminal activity than those who cannot meet this requirement…..The fact that a person may have a greater need for self-protection says nothing about how limiting the carrying of handguns to such individuals would result in a reduction of risk to other members of the public or reduce violent crime. 

J.D. Tuccille reported back in October on D.C.'s initial grudging acceptance of concealed carry permit requests of any sort. And the reason they had to start doing that was a previous Second Amendment Foundation victory in Palmer v. D.C., which I reported on back in July.

UPDATE: The initial headline on this piece was misleading and has been changed; it initially lacked the words "Part of" at the beginning