Back in July, a federal appellate court ruled that a concealed carry licensing requirement imposed by the District of Columbia was categorically prohibited by the Second Amendment.
Under the “good reason” law invalidated by the court, applicants for a concealed carry license in the District of Columbia had to establish a “good reason to fear injury to [their] person or property” or “any other proper reason” for carrying a handgun, as determined by the District’s police chief. Specifically, this meant that to be eligible for a license, the applicant had to demonstrate a particularized danger, evidenced by serious threats of death or serious bodily harm, actual attacks or theft of property, or a heightened vulnerability due to a job that necessitated carrying around large amounts of cash or “extremely valuable objects.” An applicant simply living or working in a high-crime area, without more, would not qualify.
In defense of this licensing scheme, the District of Columbia argued that the “good reason” standard was justified based on the District’s “unique” status, filled as it is with “critical official and symbolic buildings, monuments, and events, and high-profile public officials” and its “dense urban setting.” According to the District, the issuance of any public-carry permit, regardless of whether it was issued for “good reason,” increases “the likelihood of public harm.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in a 2-1 decision in the combined cases of Wrenn v. D.C. and Grace v. D.C., rejected these flimsy rationalizations and ruled that “the individual right to carry common firearms beyond the home for self-defense—even in densely populated areas, even for those lacking special self-defense needs—falls within the core of the Second Amendment’s protections.” The “good reason” law completely prohibited most residents from exercising this right at all, and unique status or not, Second Amendment protections “don’t give out inside the Beltway.”
In early October, after unsuccessfully applying for a rehearing of the case, the District announced that it had decided against an appeal of the decision, which means that applicants for concealed carry licenses in the Nation’s capital are no longer hindered by this capricious and obstructive requirement.
One estimate is that D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) had denied licenses to close to 80 percent of applicants because of a failure to satisfy the “good reason” rules. Now that this requirement has been judicially eliminated, carry license applications have jumped sharply. A year ago, October and November each showed only a single National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check done in relation to permits in D.C., as was the case again in September of 2017. This October, however, 145 District residents have had permit-based NICS checks. It is unclear how many of these, if any, concern previous applicants who were denied because of “good reason” and who may now reapply, but the October 2017 NICS figure, by itself, comes very close to the total for permit-based checks in D.C. over the rest of 2017 combined.
This surge needs to be placed in the context of license requirements that remain so restrictive as to be prohibitive for many applicants. The current licensing regime includes meeting all the requirements for a person registering a firearm, “at least 16 hours of training” from an MPD-certified firearms training instructor, “at least” two hours of range training and shooting the prescribed qualification course, and paying a $75 fee ($110 dollars if the applicant’s fingerprints are not on file with the MPD). Persons who have a concealed carry permit from another state have to submit a license application to carry in the District because it recognizes no permits or licenses from another jurisdiction.
The District, it seems, is still coming to terms with the notion of public carrying as something other than inherently illegal, dangerous and irresponsible – the MPD’s tipsheet on crime prevention and personal safety cautions individuals to “[n]ever carry a firearm, knife, or other illegal weapon. A weapon will definitely escalate the situation, and it could ultimately be used to harm innocent people or yourself.”
We’ll continue to monitor developments in the Nation’s capital, but for the time being, it appears that District officials have finally accepted the fact that the Second Amendment is the only “good reason” law-abiding Americans need to carry arms for their defense.