The D.C. Council unanimously passed emergency legislation today that more narrowly defines who would be able to carry a gun in public.
The legislation comes in the wake of a July federal court decision that overturned the District’s longstanding total ban on carry guns in public. The judge ultimately issued a 90-day stay on the ruling, giving the District time to establish a plan to ensure the city isn’t a firearm free-for-all when the ruling takes effect Oct 22.
Although D.C. officials would rather the total ban stay intact, today’s legislation represents the city’s answer to the judge—-an answer that Mayor Vince Gray, who co-authored the bill with Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, says both meets the city’s safety needs and constitutional muster.
The legislation states that D.C. residents 21 and over who have registered guns can apply for a license to carry them in public. The applicant must prove they have “legitimate need” to carry a gun, such as a fear of injury to himself or herself or his or her property. Police Chief Cathy Lanier would determine who receives a license. Saying you live in a dangerous neighborhood, according to city officials, is not enough to merit a license. Those who qualify for a license would be prohibited from carrying it into schools, on public transportation, anywhere alcohol is served, and at places or events where “protection of public officials, visiting dignitaries, and demonstrators is paramount.” Non-District residents are subject to the same application provisions as residents.
During today’s Council hearing, At-Large Councilmember David Grosso tried to introduce an amendment that would create a database so the public could see who has a concealed carry license. He got some support from his colleagues, including David Catania and Yvette Alexander.
“Who cares about the confidentiality of a gun owner?” Alexander said.
Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry argued that such a database would be dangerous and the public shouldn’t know where every single gun in the District is. Grosso ultimately decided to withdraw the amendment and the Council agreed that the information should be subject to the standard Freedom of Information Act laws.
Lanier now has a month to implement the new law. Because this is emergency legislation, it will only be valid for 90 days. After that, the city will hold a hearing for the public to weigh in before it enacts more permanent legislation.
The city can still appeal the judge’s ruling, which it hasn’t yet done.
Gun photo by Shutterstock