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A federal judge ruled in July that the District’s ban on carrying guns in public was unconstitutional, subsequently overturning a key component of the city’s strict gun laws. The ruling briefly meant that pretty much anyone could carry a gun most places they wanted in the District, until a judge issued a 90-day stay on the ruling a few days later.
When that stay lapses on Oct. 22 and the judge’s ruling officially goes into effect, the District now has a plan to ensure the city isn’t a firearm free-for-all.
Today, city officials announced emergency legislation that would more narrowly define who would be allowed to obtain a concealed-carry license. (Open-carry is still illegal in the District.) Mayor Vince Gray said at a press conference this afternoon that he is confident the proposed regulations, assuming the D.C. Council passes them, would meet both constitutional muster and the safety needs of the city. The bill would require residents to prove they have a “legitimate need” to carry a gun a public.
People who say they need a license because they live in high-crime neighborhoods or because they simply love guns, for instance, would likely not qualify for a permit. A person who has a stalker, however, would be a candidate for the permit. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson says the city still has some work to do in defining what kind of personal threats would qualify for a permit. Applicants with a recent history of a dangerous mental illness would not be allowed to get a permit.
Those who have a permit will still be prohibited from carrying their guns in government buildings, on public transportation, anywhere alcohol is served, schools and universities, and 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.
Anyone who violates any of these rules would be subject to criminal and civil penalties.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier would be in charge of determining which applications are accepted. The legislation, which is set to be introduced Tuesday, would create a five-member Concealed Pistol Licensing Review Board appointed by the mayor to review any application rejections or licence revocations.
City officials said they’re confident the city government and the Metropolitan Police Department will be able to enact these regulations in the next month. The city, however, has asked the judge to reconsider his ruling altogether. If he does, which is unlikely, these new regulations could be scrapped.
“It is my opinion that the District needs less guns, not more guns,” Gray said.
Photo by Perry Stein