Applications for concealed carry permits have spiked in the District since a federal judge ordered the city to stop requiring gun owners to prove they have a “good reason” to carry a firearm in public, according to documents filed as part of an ongoing legal challenge to D.C. gun laws.
Ten days after U.S. District Judge Richard Leon’s order blocked the city from enforcing a key provision of its gun laws, the Metropolitan Police Department had received 85 concealed carry permit applications — compared to the 61 applications it had received in the prior six months.
The disclosure was made by the District’s office of the attorney general in a motion filed before a federal appellate court as city attorneys sought to overturn Judge Leon’s May 17 ruling — in which the judge wrote that the District’s concealed carry laws were likely an “unconstitutional burden.”
In a 2-1 decision Friday, a panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit approved the request for an immediate administrative stay. The decision allows the city to temporarily enforce its requirement that gun owners applying for a concealed carry permit prove they have a “good reason to fear injury” or another “proper reason,” such as a job that requires carrying large amounts of cash or valuables.
The federal appellate court panel asked both sides to file briefs on the matter in June so that judges can consider whether to stay the ruling pending appeal of the case.
Judges Judith Rogers, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, and Robert Wilkins, an appointee of President Obama, supported the request for the stay. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, opted against the request.
The legal challenge was brought by D.C. resident Matthew Grace and the national gun rights organization Pink Pistols, which advocates for members of the gay community to arm themselves for self-defense.
Mr. Grace, who legally owns four handguns, would like to be able to carry a firearm for self-defense. According to his lawsuit, the city last year denied his application for a concealed carry permit because he had not been able to meet the “good reason” requirement.
City attorneys filed a notice of appeal Thursday and the stay request Friday — even before the Judge Leon responded to their request to halt his own ruling. They sought a stay of Judge Leon’s ruling, arguing that the current laws balance “public safety with the safety of individuals especially at risk of assault.”
“The ‘good reason’ standard is critically important to the public safety of those who live in, work in, and visit the District,” the city attorneys office wrote in the motion submitted to the appellate court that defends laws adopted by the D.C. Council. “Without this standard, the District becomes a ‘right-to-carry’ regime, despite the Council’s legislative judgment, based on empirical studies, that such regimes are ‘associated with substantially higher rates of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder.’”
Judge Leon’s order is at odds with a March ruling from U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who denied a preliminary injunction in a different case that challenged the “good reason” requirement.
City attorneys pointed to the opposing rulings in the District, as well as similar rulings in other circuits, as evidence that a stay is needed to “preserve the integrity of the district court.”
Federal appeals courts have upheld restrictive good reason requirements similar to the District’s in New Jersey, New York and Maryland. A decision is pending from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in a “good reason” challenge in California.
Over the 10 days the Metropolitan Police Department was blocked from enforcing the “good reason” requirement, it had been forced to take a second look at previously denied permit applications. Individuals who had been denied concealed carry permits in the past because they could not demonstrate a good reason were allowed to submit new applications, and had application fees waived, according to police.
The police department’s website now indicates that concealed carry applicants must satisfy the “good reason” requirement. It was unclear whether the department issued any permits to applicants who did not meet the requirement during the 10 days the rule was not in effect.
Mr. Grace’s attorney has argued against the issuance of a stay in the case, stating that such an order will allow the city to continue to flagrantly violate the Second Amendment.
“Enough is enough,” attorney Charles Cooper wrote in a previously filed motion asking Judge Leon not to stay his ruling. “This Court should not allow the District to continue denying its citizens this basic constitutional right; not for a few weeks and not even for a few days.”
The lawsuit is at least the second to challenge concealed carry laws adopted by the District to comply with a federal judge’s 2014 ruling that overturned the city’s long-standing ban on the carrying of firearms in public.