- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A federal judge’s ruling that barred the District from requiring gun owners to demonstrate a “good reason” to obtain a concealed carry permit was vacated Tuesday by an appeals court that found the judge did not have authority to rule on the case.

U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. in May granted a preliminary injunction that put on hold the District’s strict concealed carry requirements after three gun owners challenged the regulations.

But a three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit ruled Tuesday that Judge Scullin, who normally works out of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York but had been assigned to oversee a series of cases in the District to alleviate a backlog, inappropriately ruled outside of his jurisdiction.

The case now will have to be sent back to the lower court and reassigned to a new judge.

Judge Scullin had been assigned to an earlier D.C. gun case, in which he found the District’s ban on carrying handguns in public was unconstitutional. But the panel found that the New York judge lacked jurisdiction in this case because he had not been specifically assigned to hear the related challenge.

“The error in this case is quite understandable,” wrote U.S. District Judge David B. Sentelle for the panel. “The calendar committee of the district court assigned the matter to Judge Scullin because it deemed the case to be related to another case over which Judge Scullin presided.”

In the end, the panel ruled that Judge Scullin was designated to hear only “specific and enumerated cases.”

“The present litigation is not one of those cases,” Judge Sentelle wrote.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine praised the panel’s decision.

“This ruling increases the likelihood that the case will be heard before a judge from our community — something that we have argued is crucial to understanding the public safety issues at stake,” Mr. Racine said. “We believe our concealed carry law is reasonable and in line with similar laws in New Jersey, New York and Maryland — all of which have been upheld as constitutional by three federal appeals courts.”

The lawsuit challenged laws lawmakers enacted last year to comply with Judge Scullin’s prior ruling that overturned the District’s long-standing ban on the carrying of firearms in public.

The “may issue” permitting scheme adopted by lawmakers after the city’s concealed carry ban was struck down created a process by which D.C. residents and nonresidents could apply for concealed carry permits by showing proof that they need to carry a weapon for self-defense.

The ruling is a blow to gun rights advocates, who have sought to challenge the city’s strict gun laws at almost every turn since the Supreme Court in 2008 struck down the District’s decadeslong ban on handgun ownership.

Gun owners Brian Wrenn, Joshua Akery and Tyler Whidby sued the city after their concealed carry applications were denied by Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. All three men applied for permits but were unable to demonstrate “a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community” or to provide evidence showing that they have been subject to “specific threats or previous attacks,” according to their lawsuit.

The three men eventually were able to obtain concealed carry permits as a result of Judge Scullin’s ruling in the case, though gun owners at large were not able to bypass the “good reason” requirement while the case progressed through the legal system.

Attorney Alan Gura, who represented the three men, said he has not heard anything from police about whether his clients’ permits would be revoked as a result of Tuesday’s ruling.

The ruling was handed down by Judges Sentelle and Laurence Silberman, both of whom were appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and Judge Nina Pillard, who was appointed by President Obama.

Mr. Gura said he does not intend to challenge the panel’s ruling and is looking forward to getting the case quickly reassigned to a new judge.

“The interest we have is moving this forward as quickly as we can practically do so,” Mr. Gura said.

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

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