The Second Amendment and Concealed Carry in DC

You probably saw that yesterday afternoon, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced that the District would not be appealing the D.C. Circuit’s decision on the city’s public-carrying law to the Supreme Court.

This was a difficult decision, but we think the Attorney General made the right call, and we are glad he did it with support from Mayor Muriel Bowser, MPD Chief Peter Newsham, Council Chairman Mendelson, and Councilmember Charles Allen, who chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.

Although this means that the District’s “good reason” requirement for carrying a gun in public will need to be revised, the District’s other stringent requirements will remain in place. Taking this case to the Supreme Court might have put those other requirements in jeopardy, and would certainly have created a protracted period of uncertainty about the status of public carrying in the District. Moreover, as we’ve maintained in amicus briefs in this case, the details of how best to protect the right of self-defense and protect the health and safety of D.C. residents should be decided by the locally elected Council, not the federal courts.

We think that District leaders should promptly go forward with that decision making. In striking down the “good reason” requirement, the D.C. Circuit laid out the requirements for how the District can regulate public carrying within the bounds of the Second Amendment. The Court said that the District’s rule must allow residents who are “no more dangerous with a gun than the next law-abiding citizen” to “carry a gun in the face of ordinary self-defense needs.” The Court also said that those “needs”  must be measured by “the risks and needs of typical law-abiding citizens.” It furthermore said that while the District’s rules should be based on such typical “risks and needs,” it should grant a license to carry only to those shows to be “responsible citizens” and should deny it to those “prone to misuse” the weapons.

Given these standards, D.C. leaders should marshal the needed data and perform the necessary analysis to develop new rules for concealed carry. These new rules  could involve both the adoption of new requirements as well as the strengthening of previous requirements. All of these requirements should be set according to the Court’s standard, and all should be developed with input from the community, from experts, and from actual experience with concealed carry both in the District and elsewhere. Only in that way can the city have confidence that its requirement will be based on the actual risks faced by typical responsible citizens and the ordinary self-defense needs of those citizens. And only in that way can the city have confidence that if its rules are challenged again, they should be upheld by the courts.

We applaud the determination of city leaders not to prolong the uncertainty about the District’s gun safety rules by seeking review in the Supreme Court. We urge them, instead, to take this opportunity to promptly explore the development of new or revised rules consistent with the new standard laid out by the Court.


Leave a Reply