- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2015

A federal judge on Monday put on hold the District’s requirement that gun owners demonstrate a “good reason” in order to receive a concealed carry permit — saying the licensing scheme deprives citizens of their Second Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by three gun owners that seeks to overturn the new D.C. firearms law on the grounds that the regulations are so strict that they make it impossible to exercise their right to bear arms.

In the 23-page opinion, the judge wrote that the District’s “good reason” requirement goes far beyond reasonable concealed carry restrictions, that the gun owners are likely to win the case and that the city cannot enforce the law in the meantime.

“For all intents and purposes, this requirement makes it impossible for the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens to obtain licenses to carry handguns in public for self-defense, thereby depriving them of their Second Amendment right to bear arms,” Judge Scullin wrote.

D.C. lawmakers drafted the concealed carry laws last year to comply with a ruling by Judge Scullin that overturned the District’s long-standing ban on the carrying of firearms in public. The legislation created a process by which D.C. residents and nonresidents could apply for concealed carry permits by showing proof that they needed to carry a weapon for self-defense.

D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier was given the authority to decide who met the criteria.

After being denied concealed carry permits by Chief Lanier this year, D.C. residents Brian Wrenn and Joshua Akery, and Tyler Whidby, a Florida resident who maintains a residence in Virginia, filed suit.

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 the lawsuit.

The judge said it was appropriate for the District to impose some restrictions on the carrying of guns in public, but granted the injunction on this provision noting that the plaintiffs likely would succeed in their claim that the city’s requirement to provide a “good reason” was a violation of the Second Amendment.

“The issue here is not whether the District of Columbia’s ‘good reason’/’proper reason’ requirement is a reasonable or wise policy choice. Rather, the issue is whether this requirement, no matter how well intended, violates the Second Amendment,” Judge Scullin wrote.

The preliminary injunction leaves in place other concealed carry permit requirements, including the completion of firearms training and restrictions on where concealed weapons can be carried.

The lawsuit is not challenging those restrictions.

Lawyer Alan Gura, who is representing the Second Amendment Foundation in the lawsuit, said he was pleased with the ruling but expects the District to appeal.

“We’re going to fight all the way,” he said.

The city attorney general’s office, which is representing the District in the case, is still reviewing Monday’s ruling to determine next steps in the case.

“We are reviewing the ruling; however, we believe that the law passed by the Council is constitutionally valid,” said Attorney General Karl Racine.

The Metropolitan Police Department was also still reviewing the ruling and unable to comment on it late Monday.

D.C. officials have defended the policy by arguing that having fewer concealed weapons on city streets reduces risks to the public and the likelihood that a weapon is used in a violent crime and that the “may issue” scheme balances security risks in the nation’s capital with gun owners’ rights.

Chief Lanier has provided a few examples of circumstances that would qualify under the law, including a documented history as a domestic violence victim or having a job that requires carrying large amounts of money or valuables on a regular basis.

The judge questioned how limiting concealed carry permits to specific cases would keep the public safer.

“The fact that a person may have a greater need for self-protection says nothing about how limiting the carrying of handguns to such individuals would result in a reduction of risk to other members of the public or reduce violent crime,” Judge Scullin wrote. “Is the Court to conclude that people who do not have a heightened need for self-protection are more likely to commit violent crimes?”

Judge Scullin also ruled Monday on an outstanding motion in the Palmer v. District gun case that overturned the city’s ban on carrying guns in public.

He decided not to hold the city in contempt of his ruling to devise a concealed carry scheme, noting that the old ban on carrying handguns in public was no longer in place and that the new version “only prohibits those who do not have a license from carrying a concealed handgun in public.”

The judge, who normally works out of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, took the Palmer case amid a backlog in the District after the judge to whom it was originally assigned retired.

Only a small number of concealed carry permits have been sought since the law took effect.

The Metropolitan Police Department could not provide up-to-date figures Monday but reported that 70 people applied from October through February and that 11 permits were approved.

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

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