Washington DC Gun Laws Headed to Federal Appeals Court

Restrictions amount to an outright ban, say some.

District of Columbia Residents Don't Have 2nd Amendment Rights

It’s been two years since a ban on carrying handguns in public in Washington D.C. was struck down, since at that time a federal court overruled the District’s ban on carrying handguns in public. With that ruling gun owners in the nation’s capital could apply for concealed carry permits for the first time.

That doesn’t mean it’s been an easy path since then. In fact, city lawmakers have made it so difficult to qualify for a permit that only 89 permit applications have been approved within that time frame. D.C. law requires gun owners 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. Living in a high-crime city, apparently, is not currently a good enough reason. That’s too strict of an interpretation for some people’s taste, and those rules are set to be evaluated by a federal appeals court soon.

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, Second Amendment advocates argued their case in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to try to get these laws overturned. These are two separate lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the city’s gun laws.

D.C. officials say the restrictions are necessary because of the growing gun violence in the area and the security involved with having a large number of government facilities within s small area. Opponents cite the same reason of increased gun violence as cause for loosening the restrictions on gun ownership permits. Gun rights groups and Republican attorneys general from more than a dozen states are asking the court to find the restrictions on concealed carry unconstitutional.

A panel has been convened to determine whether the restrictions on permitting should remain in place while the laws are being challenged. According to court records on Tuesday, judges were asking questions that got right to the point: Judges Thomas B. Griffith and Stephen F. Williams questioned the possibility that a woman living alone in a high-crime area with neighbors who had been attacked might not qualify for a permit.

“Isn’t it an inherent right?” Griffith asked Assistant Attorney General Holly Johnson. “Why should I have to show a need before exercising that right?”

According to the Washington Post, much of the discussion Tuesday was focused on interpretations of the history of gun regulations, with references to Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and early American and English law. The restrictions were seen as very similar, if not basically the same as, an outright ban, at least for a typical law-abiding citizen who has not been attacked or otherwise proved to have been threatened. Maryland, New Jersey, New York and some jurisdictions in California have similar restrictions to D.C. on the books. People everywhere will be waiting for a decision.