Appeals Court Order Blocks Enforcement Of D.C. Gun Law

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Under a Sept. 28 court order, officials in the District of Columbia will not be able to enforce the concealed carry gun law in the nation's capital, one of the strictest in the country, and will possibly send the case to define the Second Amendment to the higher courts.

D.C. has attempted to restrict the carrying of a firearm in public spaces to those who present "a good reason" to need to protect themselves from harm. Despite a July 25 ruling by a panel of three judges against the city's restrictions, the District continued to ban citizens from carrying a gun. The permitting system had remained in effect while an appeal of the judges' decision was under review, and the District was still able to prevent most residents from carrying concealed firearms, reports The Washington Post.

On Sept. 28, a federal appeals court ruled to uphold the July decision without revisiting the case and with no explanation.

“The court will have to step in now to provide uniformity in how we understand the Second Amendment,” said Adam Winkler, law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Since the 2008 Supreme Court case that declared for the first time a Second Amendment right to gun ownership separate from military service, the court has hesitated to decide whether the Second Amendment applies outside of the home.

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Judge Thomas Griffith said constitutional challenges to gun laws “create peculiar puzzles for the courts,” noting that the Supreme Court’s first in-depth review “is younger than the first iPhone,” reported Reuters following the July decision.

However, the most recent decision not to enforce D.C.'s concealed carry law and others states, including New York and California, receiving appeals to similar laws signals a higher chance of the Supreme Court taking on the case. 

D.C. Council member Charles Allen, head of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, said the court’s decision not to rehear the case “puts the city in a bind,” reports The Washington Post.

“Our city will be less safe with more guns on the streets and it will make the job of our metropolitan police officers all the more difficult,” Allen said in a statement.

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To obtain a concealed carry permit in the nation's capital, an applicant would have to demonstrate a "good reason to fear injury." D.C. police have denied 417 applications and approved 126 as of July 15, according to the police department.

It's unclear what is considered a "good reason," as living in a high crime area is not considered a strong enough reason to have a permit.

“The good-reason law is necessarily a total ban on most D.C. residents’ right to carry a gun in the face of ordinary self-defense needs,” wrote Judge Thomas B. Griffith in the July decision.

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine called the restrictions “common sense gun rules” due to the unique security problems the capital faces. Racine said in a statement he is disappointed in the decision and will consult with the mayor, council members and the police department for next steps.

Not all were looking for ways to combat the decision. Attorney Alan Gura, who represents one of the challengers, said he was pleased with the upholding of their victory to support the citizens of D.C.

“The city has some decisions to make now as to whether they want the Supreme Court to take a look," Gura said. "We wouldn’t necessarily oppose that."

The city has until Oct. 5 to decide if the appeals court puts the ruling on hold to consider seeking Supreme Court review.

Sources: The Washington Post, Reuters / Featured Image: fortherock/Flickr / Embedded Images: Stefan Fussan/Flickr, Johnny Silvercloud/Flickr

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