On Tuesday the Washington, DC Council voted reluctantly, but unanimously, to allow the carry of concealed firearms in the nation’s capital. The decision came nearly two months after a federal judge ruled that DC’s 40-year-old ban on handguns outside the home was unconstitutional. In late July, District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin threw out the city’s long-standing ban and later issued a 90-day stay on his ruling to give local lawmakers time to rewrite the city’s gun laws.
“It’s a situation where we don’t really want to do this, but we have to,” Councilman Marion Barry told Reuters before the vote.
However, DC gun owners will soon have to contend with one of the strictest may-issue concealed carry laws in the nation. In addition to a mandatory 16 hours of training, applicants will need to prove “a good reason to fear injury to his or her person” in order to be eligible for a concealed carry permit, such as a history of threats or previous attacks. The applicant must also attend an in-person interview at the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters. The final decision on whether or not the permit is issued rests with the police chief, while requests for appeals will be sent to a review board.
Gun owners in Washington, DC and elsewhere are already criticizing the new legislation as too restrictive. The attorney behind the case that overturned the gun ban, Alan Gura, said the restrictions were a mockery of Judge Scullin’s ruling that city officials must treat the legal carrying of handguns as a constitutional right.
“It’s not much progress to move from a system where licenses are not available to a system where licenses are only available if the city feels like issuing them,” Gura told the Washington Post. “It’s something of a joke.”
Gura, who had also previously argued the landmark constitutional case District of Columbia v. Heller, which defended the right to possess a firearm for self-defense inside the home, fought a five-year legal battle to overturn the ban on concealed carry. Now he says that a reluctant city council is trying to limit the effects of the federal ruling. Gura vowed that the recently drafted bill would not be the end of the case, but local lawmakers have also said that they would defend the legislation.
“I regret that a New York federal district court senior judge, sitting here by designation, overturned the District’s longstanding carry ban, even though the ruling was not compelled by Supreme Court or DC Circuit Court case law,” said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) in a press release. “If any Member of Congress has nothing to do but to try to block or overturn this local legislation, I am prepared to take him on and suggest things to keep him busy.”
DC Mayor Vincent Gray also supported the legislation.
“While I would prefer that we did not have to change our laws to allow the carrying of concealed weapons by civilians, this bill ensures that we will be able to meet the requirements of the Constitution while maintaining the maximum amount of safeguards possible to protect our residents, visitors, workers and public-safety officers,” he said in a statement.
Residents and nonresidents alike will be able to apply for a permit once the city’s police department sets up the proper licensing framework, which is expected to take a few weeks.
Image by Sgt. Andy Dunaway/US Navy, released in public domain