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DC Gun Rules – Laws and Sausages

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John Godfrey Saxe's quote is as apropos today as it was a century and a half ago. Recent developments in the District seem promising, but as there's no conclusion yet — and given ongoing political shenanigans — one would be wise not to draw conclusions.  RECOILweb

“Shall Issue” Movement Wins again in D.C.

Kel Whelan

“The District of Columbia cannot parcel out constitutional rights to a select few of its choosing,” plaintiffs’ attorney David Thompson said Tuesday. “That’s not how the Constitution works in this country.”

U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon recently granted a preliminary injunction that prevents Washington, D.C.’s notoriously anti-gun regime from enforcing the “good reason” clause in their concealed-carry law. This advances the trend nationwide of courts ruling in favor of Shall Issue licensing vs. May Issue permits.

Currently, to receive one of the only-recently made legal D.C. concealed carry permits, an applicant must meet criminal backgrounding, personal history, age, mental health, and physical requirements. They must also complete a mandatory gun training and safety program, and submit to an in-person interview with a member of the Metropolitan Police Department. Even after all that, the permit may be issued only if the applicant can also prove to the Chief they have a special need for self-protection more than a member of the general community. (i.e., specific threats, previous attacks, employment that required transport of valuables, etc.).

The ruling now forbids the City from placing “an unconstitutional burden” on citizens' right to bear arms, and prevents the city from denying applicants who otherwise meet all other eligibility requirements.


This is the third swing at bat for this issue in D.C. It has been ruled unconstitutional twice now: It was first challenged and found unconstitutional in May of 2015, but was soon overturned by a different judge on an appeal based completely on the procedural error of the case being heard by the wrong judge, not on merit. Judge Leon’s recent action flips the ruling back, effectively making D.C. a “Shall Issue” jurisdiction.

The Tuesday ruling imposed a preliminary injunction – but pending further litigation. This is basically the same conclusion the first time this issue was heard by an earlier judge. However, District law, which is similar to those of “May Issue” states such as Maryland, New Jersey and New York, may still prevail, as some Federal appeals courts have said these state laws are constitutional. “Further legislation” is assumedly in the future for D.C. as their Attorney General,Karl A. Racine, said his office believes the city's law is constitutional and will ask Leon to put his ruling on hold while the city appeals.

Judge Leon Ruling

Nationally, Shall Issue Licensing Stands To Continue Its Advance

In 1987, Floridians kicked off a wave of shall issue laws and lawsuits when their concealed carry laws were structured to take local politicians whims and cronyism out of the picture. This simple licensing system created a role model that many other states followed, eventually, leaving only California, Connecticut*, Delaware*, Hawaii,Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island as the remaining states where granting of permits is at the discretion and whim of local authorities that are not required to provide a substantive reason for a denial.

In these states, challenges are currently being undertaken against California, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. At this time, the existing May Issue stances (where it is often near-impossible to actually get a carry permit) of these states have mostly been upheld. But California and Hawaii (which fall under the pending ruling of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals court in Peruta v. San Diego County) could be forced to become shall-issue states in regards to concealed carry permits. Hawaii’s restrictions on gun carrying were essentially held unconstitutional in the Baker v. Kealoha (9th Cir. Mar. 20, 2014) case, but is somewhat tied to the above Appeals court decision and a probably (but slow) path to Shall Issue permitted carry.

*(Connecticut and Delaware, even though technically May Issue states, are generally regarded more as “Shall” because government policy or their courts direct that the issuing authorities approve applications that meet all non-discretionary criteria.)

You can find Judge Leon on Ballotpedia here.

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