D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier on Thursday said her department will begin accepting applications next week for the first public permits to carry concealed firearms in the nation’s capital in more than four decades.
Lanier’s announcement came as the D.C. Council’s judiciary committee met to grapple with a federal judge’s ruling striking down the District’s long-standing concealed-carry ban. That ruling, handed down in July, will take effect next week.
Last month, the D.C. Council enacted emergency legislation — and is in the process of writing a permanent law — to allow city residents to carry concealed weapons. The measures set out requirements for D.C. residents who own properly registered handguns as well as nonresidents with a state carry license to obtain a permit to bear a concealed weapon in the city.
But both the temporary law and the permanent measure would be among the most restrictive nationwide, giving Lanier the final say on which applications are granted. The chief and other officials have said that strict rules are needed to ensure the security of dignitaries and high-profile events.
The current temporary law provides only that applicants may carry guns in the District if they show “good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property” or “any other proper reason for carrying a pistol.”
On Thursday, Lanier offered her most detailed account of how she plans to evaluate gun owners’ applications.
Living in a crime-plagued area of the city, for example, where killings have occurred or drug sales are common would not be sufficient cause for a concealed-carry permit, Lanier said. Owning a home that has been burglarized, even multiple times, also would not necessarily give an applicant standing, she said, because the District has been required since 2008 to allow residents to keep guns in their homes for self-defense.
Rather, Lanier said, for concealed-carry permits, “we’re talking about a specific threat to you. If there is a threat, you have been threatened, you are the victim of stalking, you are the victim of domestic violence,” she said.
The law is likely to face additional challenges. Kris Hammond, a former Justice Department civil rights attorney who is running against D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), said the high bar the council has set for approval of applicants means the District will maintain a de facto ban on carrying concealed weapons.
“They have sent the message that they will deny the vast majority of requests,” said Hammond, noting that as a resident of the District’s Trinidad neighborhood, which has had spasms of violence, he would have no standing to apply. “My rights as a Trinidad resident should not be determined by what happens at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” he said, saying that security issues of protecting the president should be a federal matter, not one that limits gun rights in the city.
Lanier stressed that each case will be evaluated individually. “Certainly, we can’t anticipate every scenario that someone may present. We have to use reasonable, sound judgment in evaluating what that person articulates as a threat — what makes them feel they have unique circumstances that make them feel threatened.”
She said she would like the council to consider adding provisions in the permanent bill that would ban carrying weapons inside government buildings, in parking lots and in cabs.
Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), chairman of the judiciary committee, also pressed Lanier to more clearly spell out provisions in the temporary law that prohibit those carrying concealed weapons to stay at least 1,000 feet away from a motorcade.
Lanier acknowledged that with hundreds of lawmakers and dignitaries shuttling across the nation’s capital in government vehicles, what constitutes a motorcade could be more clearly defined as one with an obvious security perimeter maintained by law enforcement, the most obvious being the dozens of vehicles that often accompany the vehicle the president is in.
Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) questioned Lanier about mental-health-screening requirements, citing last year’s Navy Yard massacre and the firearm that gunman Aaron Alexis was able to obtain despite a history of mental illness.
Concealed-carry permits will not require such a screening, Lanier said. A city attorney said the District will have to rely on self-reporting of mental-health conditions, although Lanier said her department would use any record at its disposal — including any call for service that did not end in an arrest — to evaluate who is allowed to obtain a permit.
Doctors, clergy members and others also lobbied for more restrictions in the carry law, including banning guns from houses of worship.
Officials in the administration of Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said no final decision has been made on whether to appeal the finding that the District’s ban is unconstitutional.
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.