- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2016

It’s been two years since a federal court struck down the District’s ban on carrying handguns in public, allowing gun owners to apply for concealed carry permits for the first time.

But strict requirements adopted by city lawmakers have made it difficult to obtain the permits, with only 89 approved.

On Tuesday, Second Amendment advocates who are challenging the constitutionality of the city’s gun laws in two separate lawsuits will argue their cases before a federal appeals court. The two cases have drawn the attention of gun control activists and gun rights groups across the country who have weighed in on the legal challenges.

D.C. law requires gun owners to 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, in order to get a concealed carry permit.

Gun owners must be able to prove a specific need for self-protection, with authorities requiring evidence to show a person has previously been a target for threats or attacks. Living in a neighborhood with a high-crime rate isn’t enough on its own to qualify as a good reason.

Gun owners who have sought to obtain concealed carry permits have had them turned down by the Metropolitan Police Department because they were unable to prove a special need for protection. To date, police officials report 374 permit applications have been denied.

SEE ALSO: D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier celebrates last day on the force, tinged with controversy

In court documents filed ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, gun owners argue that the rules on concealed carry permits are so strict that they effectively ban most law-abiding gun owners from exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

They are supported by gun rights groups as well as a coalition of attorneys general from 16 states — including Texas, Arizona and Missouri — who argued that the regulations infringe on individuals rights.

D.C. officials have argued that the “may issue” scheme they have devised balances security risks in the nation’s capital with gun owners’ rights. Attorneys general from 10 states, some of which have had similar gun carry restrictions upheld in court, defend the laws on the grounds that the “challenged regulations represent a policy choice that the District is constitutionally free to adopt.”

The District’s gun laws, regarded as among the strictest in the nation, have come under frequent legal attack since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 overturned the city’s ban on gun ownership — forcing lawmakers to redraft regulations multiple times. Since the landmark ruling, the high court has not weighed in on right-to-carry laws.

Similar laws limiting concealed carry in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and California have survived legal challenges in other federal appeals courts.

In the District, lower court judges who heard the two D.C. lawsuits have come to different conclusions about the legality of the “good reason” requirement.

In March, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied a preliminary injunction in a case that challenged the “good reason” requirement.

She noted that the city had identified a strong interest “in reducing risks posed to members of the public in the District of Columbia as a result of concealed weapons carried in public” and that the plaintiffs — two D.C. men and a Florida resident who were denied concealed carry permits — had not shown that a preliminary injunction would be in the public interest.

But U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon in May found that the District’s concealed carry laws were likely an “unconstitutional burden” and blocked the city from enforcing the laws. However an appeals court panel stepped in to stay the ruling.

The three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that will hear the two cases Tuesday consists of Republican appointees Karen LeCraft Henderson, Thomas B. Griffith and Stephen F. Williams.

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