WASHINGTON (CN) – The D.C. Circuit on Tuesday shot down Washington’s requirement that citizens have a “good reason” to fear that their lives are in danger to carry a concealed firearm in the capital city.
In a 2-1 decision, the federal appeals court said the District’s permitting requirement is so restrictive that it is essentially a ban in violation of the Second Amendment.
“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, where these residents are no more dangerous with a gun than the next law-abiding citizen,” U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas B. Griffith wrote for the majority, which also included Judge Stephen F. Williams.
Griffith added, “Bans on the ability of most citizens to exercise an enumerated right would have to flunk any judicial test.”
Tuesday’s decision is the latest blow to the District’s attempt “at managing what the D.C. Council sees as the tension between public safety and the Second Amendment,” the ruling states.
Gun ownership and the right to carry a handgun has been an issue in the District since 1976, when the first handgun ban was put into place.
Its regulations that say would-be handgun owners need a legitimate reason if they want to obtain a conceal-carry license was an attempt to salvage its outright ban on handguns, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller.
To get a conceal-carry license now, would-be gun owners must prove that they have a “good reason” to fear that their lives are in danger. The regulations specify that living or working “in a high crime area shall not by itself” qualify as a good reason to carry.
A federal judge upheld the good-reason law, prompting the Second Amendment Foundation and three gun owners to appeal last year.
District officials told the appeals court that the restrictions are necessary because of high incidents of gun violence in a city that is home to the nation’s capital.
Gun-rights groups and Republican attorneys general from more than a dozen states argued against the law, claiming it is unconstitutional because the typical law-abiding citizen could not obtain a concealed-carry permit.
The D.C. Circuit noted in its ruling that “the Second Amendment erects some absolute barriers that no gun law may breach.”
“To watch the news for even a week in any major city is to give up any illusions about ‘the problem of handgun violence in this country.’ The District has understandably sought to fight this scourge with every legal tool at its disposal. For that long struggle against gun violence, you might see in today’s decision a defeat; you might see the opposite,” Griffith wrote. “To say whether it is one or the other is beyond our ken here. We are bound to leave the District as much space to regulate as the Constitution allows—but no more.”
The ruling gives the District 30 days to decide whether to appeal for an en banc review of the decision. If any potential request for an en banc review is denied, the order to block the good-reason law will take effect seven days later.
U.S. Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson dissented from the majority, saying that the good-reason regulation “passes muster” because of the city’s unique security challenges as the nation’s capital and because it does not affect the right to keep a firearm at home.
D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said in a statement that he will consider appealing the majority’s decision.
“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,” Racine said. “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 Office of Attorney General is committed to working with the Mayor and Council to continue fighting for common-sense gun rules.”