A federal appeals court ruled Monday that the District can continue enforcing its new rules for gun permits, pending a final ruling on whether the restrictions are constitutional — indicating that the judges see some merit in the city’s position that the law should stand.
In overturning an injunction last month by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr., the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued no opinion explaining its reasoning. But the appeals court set aside Scullin’s finding that a challenge by gun rights activists to a key provision of the D.C. law was likely to prevail.
That provision requires a person to state a “good reason” for carrying a weapon in order to obtain a permit from police.
In a statement, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said his office was “extremely pleased” with the decision.
“Our procedure for issuing gun-carry permits is very similar to laws in New Jersey, New York and Maryland that federal appeals courts have upheld,” he said. “We believe we have a very strong case.”
D.C. officials have called gun-carry rules a fundamental safety concern, given the District’s status as host to federal officials and the diplomatic corps.
Alan Gura, attorney for Brian Wrenn, two other individual plaintiffs and the Second Amendment Foundation, said only that he was pleased that the court also chose to expedite arguments so each side can present its case.
Attorneys for Wrenn and the other plaintiffs had argued successfully before Scullin that the D.C. gun regulation continues to violate the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment right to bear arms. The judge wrote that the District failed to show that people with “good reason” to carry a firearm are any less likely to pose a public safety danger than others.
On Monday, U.S. Circuit Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson, David S. Tatel and Janice Rogers Brown disagreed without elaborating, calling for oral arguments soon after a Sept. 24 deadline for written filings by attorneys.
Earlier this month, a separate panel including Tatel, Brown and Patricia A. Millett temporarily blocked Scullin’s decision from taking effect. Unlike Monday’s decision, however, that panel said it was doing so for administrative reasons and not “ruling on the merits.”
In considering whether to stay preliminary injunctions, courts must consider which side is likely to win overall, whether anyone would be “irreparably harmed” by a temporary order and the public interest.
The city created its new gun-permitting system after Scullin last July struck down as unconstitutional the District’s long-standing ban on carrying firearms in public.
Passed by the D.C. Council, the District’s new carry legislation remains among the strictest in the nation.
The law allows city residents who own properly registered handguns, as well as nonresidents with a state carry license, to apply for a permit to bear a concealed weapon in the District.
Applicants still must pass background checks and training requirements, with Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier issuing final licensing decisions.
Scullin on May 18 ordered the city to halt enforcing a provision that gives police discretion to grant gun licenses only to applicants who show “good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property” or “any other proper reason for carrying a pistol,” such as employment transporting cash or other valuables.
After the order, D.C. police reported receiving a surge of new applicants — 96 in less than four weeks, compared with 109 over the previous seven months the law was in effect, Racine’s office said.