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The Facts —
- The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit let stand a panel’s decision that declared Washington DC’s requirement for gun owners to provide a “good reason” when applying for concealed carry permits to be unconstitutional.
- In Wrenn v. District of Columbia, the panel consisted of three members of the DC Circuit court, who voted that the requirement was unconstitutional by a 2-1 vote in July. Judge Griffith delivered the majority opinion and wrote, “the Second Amendment erects some absolute barriers that no gun law may breach… the law-abiding citizen’s right to bear common arms must enable the typical citizen to carry a gun.”
- Friday’s order came after the city asked the entire Circuit Court to rule on the case. The court denied the request, thus leaving the original decision in place.
- No judges on the Circuit Court voted to hear the case.
- The DC law stated that individuals must have “good reason to fear injury to person or property” to obtain a concealed carry permit. The law added:
“The fact that a person resides in or is employed in a high crime area shall not by itself establish a good reason to fear injury to person or property for the issuance of a concealed carry license.”
- The Washington Post reported that, as of June, the Metropolitan Police Department had granted 126 concealed carry permits and denied 417 applicants since the law took effect in 2014.
- DC Attorney General Karl Racine told the Washington Times that he had not decided whether his office would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Will the Supreme Court Consider this Case?
- If the District of Columbia decides to appeal the decision, it will be up to the Supreme Court whether or not to hear the appeal. If the hight court does not hear the appeal, the panel’s decision will stand and apply only to the District of Columbia.
- Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA, told Fox News that the Circuit court’s decision not to hear the case made it more likely that the Supreme Court will hear the case.
“Sometimes the most important thing a court does is not do anything. Because of what the DC Circuit didn’t do today, the Supreme Court is now far more likely to take a concealed carry case.”
- In a phone call with The Whim, Randy Barnett, professor at Georgetown Law, explained that the lawsuit will define how the Second Amendment applies outside of the home. District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 ruled that DC’s handgun ban violated the Second Amendment and established the individual’s right to have a firearm in his home. This case examines the right to possess a gun outside of the household.
- Barnett said that the Supreme Court will likely take the case in the coming months because there is no existing Supreme Court precedent regarding the right to carry outside of the home, and circuit courts have been divided on the issue.
- In 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld California’s law that required “good cause” for carrying a concealed weapon.
- The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the 9th Circuit’s decision. Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Gorsuch, wrote a dissenting opinion against the high court’s decision not to hear the case. Thomas wrote:
“The most natural reading of this definition encompasses public carry. I find it extremely improbable that the Framers understood the Second Amendment to protect little more than carrying a gun from the bedroom to the kitchen.”
- In a phone call with The Whim, Robert Cottrol, Professor of Law at George Washington University, explained that a decision to appeal the case to the Supreme Court could be a gamble for supporters of stricter gun laws. The current decision marked the law unconstitutional in DC but has no effect on other areas. If the Supreme Court upheld the panel’s decision, restrictions such as “good reason” for concealed carry would be unconstitutional across the country.
- Cottrol said the question facing the Supreme Court is to what extent the court is prepared to go beyond a basic recognition of the Second Amendment as an individual right. While Heller defended ownership, the coming case would define the individual’s right to carry outside of the home.
Supporters of the Court’s Decision —
- The plaintiff’s attorney, Alan Gura, who successfully argued the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case, said:
“Ten years ago, Washington DC’s political leadership tried to extinguish Second Amendment rights before the Supreme Court. The result was DC v. Heller, a tremendous victory for the rights of all Americans. With the court of appeals again confirming the people’s right to bear arms, Washington, DC’s politicians must once again ask themselves whether it makes sense to keep resisting our fundamental rights.”
- Alan Gottlieb, founder and Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation, a plaintiff in the case, said:
“We are grateful that the court has shown considerable wisdom, and this should help advance the effort to assure reasonable concealed carry for District residents. It represents one more advancement in our effort to win firearms freedom one lawsuit at a time.”
Critics of the Court’s Decision —
- Following the panel’s decision in July, Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine told NBC Washington:
“The District of Columbia’s ‘good reason’ requirement for concealed-carry permits is a common-sense gun regulation, and four federal appeals courts have rejected challenges to similar laws in other states.”
- In the dissent of the panel decision, Judge Henderson wrote, “The sole Second Amendment ‘core’ right is the right to possess arms for self-defense in the home,” and that she believed the law was constitutional “because the District’s good reason regulation does not affect firearm possession within the home and therefore does not ‘impose a substantial burden upon the core right of self-defense protected by the Second Amendment.’”
Members of the DC Circuit Court —
- Members of the DC Circuit Court are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Here is a table of the members and their appointers.
- The panel consisted of Henderson, Griffith, and Williams.
|Merrick B. Garland, Chief Judge||Bill Clinton|
|Karen LeCraft Henderson||George HW Bush|
|Judith W. Rogers||Bill Clinton|
|David S. Tatel||Bill Clinton|
|Thomas B. Griffith||George W Bush|
|Brett M. Kavanaugh||George W Bush|
|Sri Srinivasan||Barack Obama|
|Patricia A. Millett||Barack Obama|
|Cornelia T.L. Pillard||Barack Obama|
|Robert L. Wilkins||Barack Obama|
|Harry T. Edwards||Jimmy Carter|
|Laurence Silberman||Ronald Reagan|
|James L. Buckley||Ronald Reagan|
|Stephen F. Williams||Ronald Reagan|
|Douglas H. Ginsburg||Ronald Reagan|
|David B. Sentelle||Ronald Reagan|
|A. Raymond Randolph||George HW Bush|
William Spruance contributed to this report.