Guns, Democracy, and Public Safety

As you know, the District’s requirements for carrying a gun in public are being challenged in a federal lawsuit. The case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Today we joined several distinguished D.C. organizations and individuals in filing an amicus curiae brief in support of the District’s requirements.

At issue in the appeal is whether the Second Amendment permits the District to require individuals to show a special need for carrying a concealed gun in public. The lower court struck down this requirement as a violation of the Second Amendment, even though similar requirements have already been upheld by three other courts of appeals.

This case comes at critical moment for the District of Columbia-for two important reasons.

First, the District is facing a major upsurge in shootings on the streets of the city. Over the past week, the District surpassed its total 2014 homicide count. District officials have attributed the increased violence in part to an increase in the number of guns on the streets and individuals using guns to settle petty disputes. Insisting that even more people start carrying guns on the streets of the nation’s capital is not the way to protect public safety, as both our police officials and elected officials have determined.

This leads to the second reason this case is so important. If there ever were a case where Judges should not be second guessing the decisions of local officials about the best way to protect public safety while also protecting the right of self-defense, this is such a case. In imposing the requirements that must be met for a person to carry a concealed weapon, the D.C. Council relied on ample evidence that increasing public carrying would lead to more gun violence. The Council also recognized the District’s longstanding unique public safety challenges as an entirely urban jurisdiction and the nation’s capital.

As we argued in our brief, the local democratic process here in the District produced a careful judgment about how best to protect public safety and combat gun violence, while also acknowledging those who have good reason for carrying a gun. The Court should defer to that judgment.

We’re grateful to WilmerHale partner Paul Wolfson and his team for preparing the brief on a pro bono basis. We’re also thankful to DC Vote, DC for Democracy, the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia, and former mayor Anthony Williams for joining DC Appleseed as amici.

Briefing in this case will conclude in October, and the court has scheduled oral argument for November 20. We will continue to support the District in its efforts to protect public safety throughout this case.

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