For a city dedicated to the admiration of the Constitution and the nation that it founded, Washington, D.C. has a history of having some of the strictest gun laws in the country. It’s protection of the 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms has always been heavily regulated and severely enforced. On July 25, 2017, however, the tide seemed to turn when a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled 2-1 that the “good reason” requirement in obtaining a license to carry a pistol in the District is unconstitutional. The United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in Wrenn v. District of Columbia, struck down the District’s licensing scheme for obtaining a license to carry a pistol outside the home for self-defense.
Prior to this ruling, citizens had to prove that they had a “good reason” (ie. a job that makes them carry a lot of cash or valuables, or being in a position where one would be targeted) to carry a concealed firearm. Now, if this decisions stands, this might no longer be the case.
U.S. District Courts are a broader system of appeals courts which are divided geographically across the entire country to cover a large number of federal courts. Washington, D.C. has its own federal District Court to handle the volume of litigation which comes out of it as the nation’s capital. As a result of the ruling, D.C.’s federal appellate court has ordered the District Court to enter into an injunction which would stop the “good reason” rule from being enforced. But while the appellate court may have determined the “good reason” rule to be unconstitutional, the District itself might appeal the decision by asking for a hearing with all ten judges in the D.C. District Court (or an “en banc review”), or by turning to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, they can ask the appellate court for a stay, which would allow DC not to enter the injunction during their own appeals process.
In short, this could be good news, especially for citizens who are currently facing charges for exerting their constitutional 2nd amendment right and carrying a firearm in the District. Although the ruling has not gone into effect yet and there could be many more months of appeals process from the District’s end. The takeaway from this decision, however, is that nobody should be pleading guilty to the felony count of carrying a pistol without a license. This decision affirms that carrying a pistol, unlike say drunk driving or getting a DC DUI, is constitutionally protected activity. The government has the right and authority to regulate who and how one can get a license to carry. However, with the law struck down regulating how to get a carry permit, anyone carrying a pistol prior to this decision was simply engaging in constitutional activity and violating an unconstitutional regulation.
This does not mean that all cases will get dismissed and folks should run out and carry guns in DC. Given the District’s history with gun regulations, we can almost certainly expect them to push back against this decision. Meanwhile, it may take a decision from the Supreme Court of the United States to settle these issues once and for all.
If you or someone you know is facing a charge for carrying a pistol without a license or another DC gun offense, it is critical to have an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who knows your rights and will passionately fight for them. Contact Scrofano Law PC today for a full case evaluation.
DC Circuit Upholds Right to Bear Arms for DC Residents, Washington Post, July 25, 2017.