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MILLER: Gun control dilemma

Federal ruling threatens concealed carry restrictions in the District and Maryland

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Anti-gun jurisdictions are in trouble. Tuesday's 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down the Illinois ban on concealed carry has put in the crosshairs the reluctance of the District and Maryland to allow citizens to exercise their right to self-defense outside the home.

Attorney Alan Gura, whom the Second Amendment Foundation hired to argue the Moore v. Madigan case in Illinois, has been distributing Judge Richard A. Posner's majority decision to other courts currently mulling over the meaning of the right to bear arms. Mr. Gura represents plaintiffs in several firearms cases in the country, including the Palmer v. D.C. in the District and the Woollard v. Sheridan case in Maryland.

The Palmer case was filed in August 2009 and remains pending. "We've been waiting a long time for a decision," said Mr. Gura in an interview with The Washington Times on Thursday. "Whoever loses will take it to appeal, so this is just the first step."

The 7th Circuit decision puts the District's attorney general in a legal pickle. The city made a big production out of Moore when the trial court sided with state law. Since Illinois had the same total prohibition on carry as Washington, it will be hard now for D.C. officials to ignore the clear application of the appellate court's reasoning.

"The city council needs to stop resisting the Constitution," said Mr. Gura. "The only question is how much of the taxpayers' money they are going to waste because the end result is going to be that people will have the Second Amendment respected here." Neither Mayor Vincent Gray nor City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson responded to repeated requests for comment.

Pro-gun activists are paying close attention to how the Illinois state legislature crafts its response to the latest ruling. The question is whether a new law allowing carry rights in the Prairie State will be "shall issue" or "may issue," which puts the burden on the carry permit applicant to come up with a good reason for needing a handgun. This backdoor approach to gun control might not last long.

Maryland in effect never issues such permits to law-abiding citizens who are just interested in protecting themselves or their family. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to decide the constitutionality of these policies in the Woollard case in the next few months.

"The language of Moore strongly suggested that the 'may issue' is not going to fly," said Mr. Gura. "It said that the right outside the home is just as important as inside." As Judge Posner wrote, "A Chicagoan is a good deal more likely to be attacked on a sidewalk in a rough neighborhood than in his apartment on the 35th floor of the Park Tower."

The fundamental constitutional right to self-defense is proving too strong for its enemies to destroy. It's time for politicians in Illinois, Maryland and the District to stop trying to dodge the inevitable. As the rest of the country has done, they should recognize the right of its citizens to bear arms in all reasonable cases.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

 

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