- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Residents and visitors to Washington, D.C., can now carry concealed handguns for the first time in decades.

Members of the D.C. Council begrudgingly, but unanimously, voted for a bill that would allow individuals to carry the firearms if they meet a number of requirements.

“I don’t believe in guns. I don’t believe in carrying guns,” said council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat and a former four-term mayor. “I think the public ought to understand that all of us here are doing something we really don’t want to do.”

However gun rights advocates criticize as too narrow the new law, which was crafted in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the District’s 32-year-old ban on carrying handguns outside the home.

According to the regulations, living in a crime-infested neighborhood would not itself constitute a legitimate reason for carrying a concealed weapon.

“Living in a high-crime area is not sufficient to establish the good cause,” Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said last week. “Getting death threats, being the victim of domestic violence and having the threats or reoccurrence, that would be good cause. It has to be personalized. It has to be something specific.”

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The city’s emergency legislation will go into effect for 90 days, at which time permanent legislation is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Vincent Gray.

“This bill ensures that we will be able to meet the requirements of the Constitution while maintaining the maximum amount of safeguards possible to protect our residents, visitors, workers and public-safety officers,” said a statement from Mr. Gray.

Under the new legislation, the city’s police chief would determine who has a valid reason for carrying a concealed weapon. The open brandishing of firearms will continue to be illegal.

Other requirements to qualify for a concealed carry permit include registration of the gun with the police department, 16 hours of safety training and two hours of range training, as well as a determination that the person has not suffered from a mental illness or condition that puts them at risk of being a danger to others.

Gun owners from other states could apply for concealed carry permits in the District but would have to meet the same requirements.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said last week that she is comfortable deciding who should have the right to carry a firearm, but declined to give a personal opinion on the legislation.

While the department will make the initial decision on a permit, a five-member Concealed Pistol Licensing Review Board will be appointed by the mayor to review any permit denials or license revocations.

District leaders anticipate court challenges to the new law, but they hope this one will survive since it’s based on recent bills in Maryland, New Jersey and New York that have passed court muster.

However the attorney who successfully challenged the initial ban claims the new law is still too restrictive and does not comply with the court ruling. “In America, the police don’t determine what rights we have good reason to enjoy,” Alan Gura told the Associated Press. “You don’t need a good reason to speak, to worship, to vote or to carry a gun for self-defense.”

Andrea Noble contributed to this report

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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