District of Columbia

Fed Court: DC ‘Proper Reason' Gun Law Is Unconstitutional

A federal appeals court has blocked a District of Columbia law that makes it difficult for gun owners to get concealed carry permits.

A divided three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled Tuesday that the law requiring people to show "good reason to fear injury" or another "proper reason" to carry a weapon infringes on residents' Second Amendment rights.

D.C. officials can ask the full appeals court to review the ruling.

Despite the court's ruling, D.C. will uphold the law for now, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said. 

“Washington, D.C. is the safest it has been in years," the mayor said in a statement. "The District's 'good reason' requirement is similar to the concealed carry requirements in other states and, for now, it remains in effect.”

Under the law, reasons to get a permit 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.

Judge Karen Henderson dissented, saying she believes the law passes constitutional muster.

Attorney General Karl Racine said his office, Bowser and the D.C. Council will continue to fight for "common-sense gun rules." 

"The District of Columbia's 'good reason’ requirement for concealed-carry permits is a common-sense gun regulation, and four federal appeals courts have rejected challenges to similar laws in other states," Racine said in a statement. 

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson also said the ruling ran contrary to previous court decisions across the country. 

“The 2-1 panel decision is at odds with four other Circuit Court decisions on this issue," Mendelson said in a statement. "Accepting this without appeal would make the District an outlier among the states, and not in a good way, on this important issue of public safety.”

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton opposed the court's ruling as well, hedging her bets that the decision could be successfully challenged.

"If appealed to the full Circuit Court, I believe the chances are excellent that this decision will be overturned, with the recognition that the District’s requirement is in line with other gun safety legislation that has survived court attacks," she said in a statement.

This decision is the latest in a long-running tussle over the city's gun laws. In 2008, 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 were registered as of September, police told the Associated Press then.

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

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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