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DC City Council passes concealed handgun measure law but its a straw law

Written By | Sep 24, 2014

WASHINGTON September 24, 2014 – The DC City Council passed a measure allowing residents to apply for concealed handgun licenses. The District’s ban on conceal carry was struck down by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. in July. Scullin has scheduled an Oct. 17 hearing on the city’s request that he reconsider his decision.

For now, the DC Council, a very anti-gun rights crowd, is charged with creating the necessary legislation and registration processes needed to put the new law into place.

The new law was forced upon the DC City Council after The Second Amendment Foundation brought Palmer v. The District of Columbia to the DC District Court seeking to lift the forty year old ban on conceal carry in the District. [PalmervDC]

The case struck the DC conceal carry ban down as unconstitutional, allowing time to pass legislation necessary to comply with the ruling. However not everyone is happy.

The legislation, called “The License to Carry a Pistol Emergency Amendment Act of 2014” [Pistol Emergency Amendment Act of 2014] seeks to “control the possession, sale, transfer and use of 22 pistols and other dangerous weapons in the District of Columbia…” It gives the DC Chief of Police the authority to grant licenses to applicants who are both residents and non-residents of Washington on a “may issue” basis.

In fact the law is quite stringent as to what it requires an applicant to display in order to justify issuance of a license.

Before a license is issued, an applicant must have…

“Demonstrated a good reason to fear injury to his or her person, which shall at a minimum require a showing of a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life…”

This provision essentially means that an applicant has to prove that his life is in danger before he is given the ability to carry a concealed firearm.

Alan Gura, attorney for residents challenging the conceal carry band, said the bill that 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.”

In addition to the stringent need based application procedure, the legislation also seeks to dictate how much ammunition can be carried by a holder, as well as what type of ammunition, and how the weapon can be holstered.

However, there are some provisions that pro-gun and civil liberties advocates will cheer for. Under the new law…”Any record regarding individuals who have applied, received, or had revoked any registration issued pursuant to this act shall not be made available as a public record under section 202 of the Freedom of Information Act of 1976.”

This most likely was placed in the legislation to assuage the fears of those who believe that registration information will be kept on applicants and disseminated among politicians and gun-control backers in the media.

While the vote was unanimous, the new law still does not sit well with the DC Council. In fact, several members are counting on the decision being repealed or thrown out.

Several members have voiced concern about the laws existence in the first place.

Mary Cheh, Ward-3 Councilwoman, said “The entire District of Columbia should be a no-carry zone.”

The court decision and legislation follow in the wake of a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court in San Diego earlier this year concerning the Peruta Case, a decision that declared that San Diego’s practice of only issuing conceal carry licenses on an “as needed” basis violated the Constitution.

With that precedent set, it would be difficult for gun control proponents in DC, or elsewhere, to successfully challenge this law. As of now, the DC Council is not expecting many to sign up for a concealed carry license, however in ninety days when applications can begin, we should get a clearer picture of just how many people want to carry in Washington.

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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a BA from Catholic University in DC and an MA form George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, both in history. When he not getting his hands dirty in 2nd Amendment and firearms news he is doing his best to take a crack at some drive-by political analysis. And every now and then he may or may not review a low end bourbon for the tax write off. Sit back, relax, and enjoy Back Porch Politics.