- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2014

The D.C. Council plans, with a few modifications, to make permanent the same concealed carry regulations lawmakers passed on a temporary basis — despite the fact a federal judge is considering whether to hold the city in contempt over the law.

A D.C. Council committee set to mark up the regulations Tuesday has recommended modest changes to the new regulations, including the presumption that places of worship would not allow concealed handguns unless they advertise otherwise and a change in the makeup of the board appointed to hear appeals on denied concealed carry permits to include two members with experience handling firearms.

Despite heated discussion over whether the District’s laws should make personal information about gun owners and concealed carry permit holders public, the committee opted to default to the police department’s recommendations to block the release of identifying information.

U.S. District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. ruled to overturn the city’s ban on the carrying of firearms in public in July after a five-year court battle, sending D.C. officials scrambling to draft new legislation that would comply with the judge’s order. The council adopted temporary legislation that has paved the way for gun owners to apply for concealed carry applications. As of Monday a Metropolitan Police Department spokesman said 38 people have applied for permits, but none has been approved.

Gun owners seeking to obtain concealed carry permits from the city have criticized the legislation for requiring them to prove a special need for self-protection.

Attorney Alan Gura, who is representing four gun owners who brought the case against the city, has argued the licensing scheme requiring a specific need is so restrictive as to be in violation of Judge Scullin’s orders and that the city should be held in contempt of his order and made to draft new regulations. A decision by the judge is pending, but the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety made no changes to the law reflective of any of the plaintiffs’ arguments against requiring a specific threat or need for protection.

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“If they’re going to spend time doing anything, they should make the law relevant to people who might want to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” Mr. Gura said of the changes made to the latest draft of the legislation.

Changes to the draft version of the measure place houses of worship in the category of locations with a presumed ban on concealed firearms. Private residences would presume a ban unless the property owner agreed. Private businesses would be presumed to allow concealed firearms unless they post signage saying otherwise.

The new draft also adds “any polling place on any day voting takes place” and the U.S. Naval Observatory and its grounds — where the vice president resides — to the list of locations where concealed firearms are banned. Other banned locations include schools, government buildings, arenas, bars and within 1,000 feet of demonstrations or high-ranking dignitaries.

The draft makes one change that could favor gun owners, however.

It changes the composition of the Concealed Pistol Licensing Review Board, which would hear appeals made by individuals denied concealed carry permits by Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. The original regulations called for a five-member board composed of one member each representing the U.S. attorney’s office, the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, a former law enforcement official, an employee from the D.C. Department of Health and a judge with the D.C. Superior Court.

The committee markup report revised the committee composition, expanding it to seven members, removing the judge and adding instead a mental health professional and two D.C. residents with experience in the operation, care and handling of firearms.

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“The Committee believes the addition of these public members will provide other important perspectives to the Review Board,” the markup report states.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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