The U.S. Appeals Court handed a victory to gun rights advocates seeking to overturn the District of Columbia’s strict “may-issue” policy for issuing concealed carry permits.
The three-judge panel issued a permanent injunction Tuesday prohibiting city authorities from enforcing a “good reason” test as part of its gun licensing program, which has resulted in more permits declined than granted and has effectively barred most people from exercising Second Amendment rights outside their home.
“To be sure, the good-reason law leaves each D.C. resident some remote chance of one day carrying in self-defense, but that isn’t the question,” said Judge Thomas Beall Griffith in his majority opinion. “The Second Amendment doesn’t secure a right to have some chance at self-defense. Again, at a minimum, the Amendment’s core must protect carrying given the risks and needs typical of law-abiding citizens. That is a right that most D.C. residents can never exercise, by the law’s very design.”
Judge Karen Lecraft Henderson wrote a dissenting opinion, saying the District’s good reason regulation passed muster and that, while the Second Amendment protects firearms in the home, “Regulations restricting public carrying are all the more compelling in a geographically small but heavily populated urban area like the District.”
The ruling comes in the combined cases of Wrenn v. DC, backed by the Second Amendment Foundation, and Grace v. DC, backed by the Pink Pistols organization. Both sought to bar the city from applying the vague “good reason” test as part of its gun licensing program.
Alan Gottlieb, SAF founder and executive vice president, called the decision a significant court victory. “Today’s ruling contains some powerful language that affirms what we have argued for many years, that requiring a so-called ‘good cause’ to exercise a constitutionally-protected right does not pass the legal smell test,” he said. “We’re particularly pleased that the opinion makes it clear that the Second Amendment’s core generally covers carrying in public for self-defense.”
At least 16 mostly Republican state attorneys general and a number of police lobby and conservative political organizations supported the cases. The National Rifle Association joined the Grace lawsuit as amicus curiae.
D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said the District would continue to fight the case and for now, at least, the good reason requirement is still active as they weigh an appeal. “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,” said Racine in a statement. “As we consider seeking review of today’s 2-1 decision before the entire D.C. Circuit, the ‘good reason’ requirement remains in effect.”
The states of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Washington as well as gun control organizations such as the Brady Campaign and Everytown opposed the suits and supported keeping Washington’s strict gun laws on the books.