DC Passes Restrictive May-Issue Gun Carry Law

District may face lawsuits because of restrictions

Office of D.C. Council member Tommy Wells


In response to a federal court ruling that declared the city's gun carry ban unconstitutional, the Washington, D.C., council voted to implement a restrictive may-issue carry law Tuesday. The new law is among the strictest in the country and may face new legal challenges, according to the Washington Post.

Tuesday’s vote was another example of the city’s liberal politics clashing with the federal judiciary’s increasingly conservative interpretations of the Second Amendment. In 2008, a Supreme Court ruling struck down the city’s three-decade-old handgun ban and set the stage for the end of the public-carry prohibition.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said the District’s new carry law is among the strictest in the nation, joining the likes of Maryland, New Jersey, and New York in establishing a highly restrictive regime that requires applicants to state good reason to want to carry a weapon. But he said a flat ban was no longer constitutionally feasible.

"If if looks like we’re being cranks . . . and we don’t want anyone to get a license, we’re in trouble in court," he said. "I do think this will survive a [legal] challenge."

Gun rights activists are already vowing to challenge the strict new gun control.

The attorney for the group of D.C. residents and workers who challenged the ban said Monday that the fate of the city’s gun laws will indeed continue to play out in the federal courts. Lawyer Alan Gura said the bill passed Tuesday "plainly fails to comply with the court’s ruling" striking down the carry ban.

"The court instructed the city to treat the carrying of handguns as a right rooted in the constitutional interest in self-defense," he said. "It’s not much progress to move from a system where ­licenses are not available to a system where licenses are only available if the city feels like issuing them. It’s something of a joke."

Gura is planning to challenge the law before the judge who issued the original ruling in an upcoming hearing.

Gura said he is prepared to take the matter before U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr., who struck down the carry ban in July and has scheduled an Oct. 17 hearing on the city’s request that he reconsider that decision.

"They have to explain why this is different than what currently exists," Gura said. "I don’t believe they can do that."

The law would leave the District's police chief with final say on who gets a permit and who does not.

But an applicant will need to show "good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property" or "any other proper reason for carrying a pistol" and must pass rigorous background checks and training requirements. The final decision on whether to issue a license would rest with the chief of police, with appeals sent to a five-member review board.

It also includes a roaming gun free zone which surrounds diplomats moving around the city.

Under the proposed D.C. bill, firearms could not be carried inside schools, hospitals, government buildings, public transportation vehicles, establishments serving alcoholic beverages, stadiums, arenas and within 1,000 feet of a dignitary under police protection.

The law is also only a temporary measure. City Council members plan to add further restrictions at a later date.

Stephen Gutowski   Email Stephen | Full Bio | RSS
Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.

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