DC Gun Law Gets Hearing Before Washington Appeals Court

An appeals court will hear challenges to a District of Columbia law that places tough requirements for gun owners to get concealed carry permits. 

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is hearing arguments Tuesday in two cases involving the law, which requires people who want to carry a gun in public to show a "good reason to fear injury'' or another "proper reason'' to carry the weapon. Reasons might include a personal threat, or a job that requires a person to carry or protect cash or valuables. Lower court judges have disagreed on whether the law is constitutional. 

The hearing is the latest in a long-running tussle over the city's gun laws. Eight years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city's ban on handguns, leading the city to rewrite its gun laws. City law now requires residents to register guns kept at their homes or businesses; more than 16,500 guns have been registered, according to police.

Anyone who wants to carry a weapon outside the home needs a separate concealed carry license. The police department said last week that 89 people have been granted concealed carry permits and 374 have been denied. 

In March, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sided with the city and declined to issue a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the law requiring a "good reason'' or "proper reason'' for anyone who wants to carry a gun in public. Kollar-Kotelly said opponents had not shown that their lawsuit was likely to be successful. She noted that appeals courts in other parts of the country had approved of laws in New York, New Jersey and Maryland that are similar to the District of Columbia's. 

But in May, ruling in a different dispute, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon said the law "likely places an unconstitutional burden'' on citizens' right to bear arms. He suspended enforcement of the "good reason'' or "proper reason'' part of the law, but his ruling was put on hold by the appeals court now hearing the case. As a result, the city has continued to enforce the law. 

Kollar-Kotelly was nominated by a Democrat, President Bill Clinton, and Leon by a Republican, President George W. Bush. 

On Tuesday, three judges will hear 20 minutes of arguments in each of the two cases. All three judges hearing the case - Karen LeCraft Henderson, Thomas B. Griffith and Stephen F. Williams - were appointed by Republican presidents.

One of the cases involves a District of Columbia resident, Matthew Grace, and a shooting group he belongs to, Pink Pistols. The other case involves three people who would like to carry concealed handguns in the city and the Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation. 

Nine states - Maryland, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington - filed a brief supporting the District of Columbia. The National Rifle Association and sixteen other states - Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming - filed briefs opposing the law. 

This is the second time the Second Amendment Foundation case has been before a panel of D.C. Circuit judges. Those judges ruled in 2015 that the first judge hearing the case, Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr., didn't have authority to decide it, sending the case back to the lower court, where Kollar-Kotelly was assigned.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us