FBI figures show surging interest in concealed carry licenses in the nation’s capital following a recent court ruling that effectively ended D.C.’s discretionary licensing regime.
D.C. officials decided not to appeal the ruling in early October. That month, the FBI ran 217 background checks for D.C. residents, two-thirds of them in connection with concealed carry license applications. By contrast, only one-licensed related check was run in September, and no one had applied for a concealed carry license at all during the previous October.
The surge then continued in November, with 75% of the city’s record 365 National Instant Criminal Background Check System queries run for concealed carry licenses.
D.C.’s concealed carry requirements remain strict and include 16 hours of mandatory training. It’s also unusually difficult for D.C. residents to acquire ownership of a handgun, beginning with the fact that there are no stocking firearm dealers anywhere within the District.
But until October, it was virtually impossible for most D.C. residents to get a concealed carry license at all, even those with extensive firearms training, spotless backgrounds, and the willingness to jump through D.C.’s voluminous red tape. This was because D.C. had imposed a “good” or “proper” reason requirement that automatically disqualified applicants who simply wanted to carry a handgun for self-defense.
Instead, applicants had to prove a “special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community,” job duties requiring the transport of large amounts of cash or valuables, or the need to protect a close relative who cannot provide for his or her own special self-defense needs. Nearly 80% of otherwise qualified applicants were denied under this test, and incalculably more were discouraged from ever applying at all.
In July, a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the “good” or “proper” reason requirement was effectively a ban on bearing arms by people entitled to Second Amendment protection and barred its enforcement.The panel’s ruling came in the combined cases of Wrenn v. D.C. and Grace v. D.C.
The District then asked the full D.C. Circuit to rehear the case, but the court denied the request in September. On October 5, the District effectively threw in the towel by deciding not to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
That hundreds have since braved D.C.’s remaining concealed carrying licensing bureaucracy underscores what pro-gun advocates have always maintained: that the “good” or “proper” reason requirement was not a “gun safety” law but merely a prior restraint on constitutionally-protected activity.
Unfortunately, eight U.S. states still have some variant on this requirement that allows licensing officials in those jurisdictions to deny concealed carry applications virtually at will, with no other alternative for lawful carry. Countless Americans who could satisfy the strictest objective licensing requirements are therefore denied their constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense.
That is one reason why the NRA is so heavily invested in the passage of a national concealed carry reciprocity bill. NRA-backed legislation recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives that would ensure no state could arbitrarily deny law-abiding Americans the right to carry.
In the meantime, we hope that the growth of right-to-carry continues to expand exponentially in the nation’s capital. We look forward to the day when we can point to the successful implementation of shall-issue concealed carry in Washington, D.C. as the ultimate example of how good guys and gals with guns can be a force for good in any jurisdiction.