United States

D.C. Leaders Propose Concealed-Carry Licensing Program

D.C. officials proposed allowing residents and non-residents to carry concealed handguns if they show a reason for seeking a permit.

Mayor Vincent Gray plans to propose legislation that would set up a licensing process similar to a half-dozen so-called "may issue" states. Those states, including Maryland, reserve the right to deny a handgun permit to people who can't demonstrate why they need one. Thus far, the Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges to such policies.

The emergency legislation, which the D.C. Council will vote on next week, would not permit guns in government buildings, on public transportation, at stadiums, at places where public officials need to be protected and at establishments where alcohol is served, News4's Mark Segraves reported.

The District is seeking to let the police chief decide whether people have a reason to carry a concealed firearm, and officials said living in a high-crime neighborhood would not be a sufficient reason to obtain a permit. People who've received death threats or have been the victims of domestic violence are among those who could be granted permits.

The permits would be considered by the chief of police on a case-by-case basis.

"It has to be personalized. It has to be something specific," D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan said.
U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin ruled in July that it was unconstitutional to ban licensed gun owners from carrying their firearms. He delayed the ruling for three months so the District could write new legislation.

Alan Gura, an attorney for plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the proposal did not comply with the judge's order.
"In America, the police don't determine what rights we have good reason to enjoy,'' Gura said. "You don't need a good reason to speak, to worship, to vote or to carry a gun for self-defense.''

Handgun possession was banned in the District for 32 years before a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2008. After that, the city wrote laws requiring residents to register their guns and keep them at home.

The concealed-carry requirements, which the D.C. Council will vote on next week, would be even more restrictive. Those seeking a concealed-carry permit would have to complete a "more extensive'' safety course than what's required for gun owners. Non-residents would also be able to get licenses if they meet the same standards. Open carrying of firearms would remain illegal under the proposal.
Gray, a Democrat and a member of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, made clear that he was establishing the concealed-carry program reluctantly, citing last year's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard and the street violence in Chicago as examples of the need for stronger gun laws.
"I happen to be one that really does not support having people walking around with guns, concealed or otherwise,'' Gray said.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court struck down California's requirement that residents must show they faced a "clear and present danger'' to receive a gun permit, although the ruling is on hold pending an appeal. Gura said the judge in the District's case followed the logic of that ruling, which found that residents only need to show a desire for self-defense.
The other states where residents must show a reason to get a permit are Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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