A federal appeals court on Friday temporarily stayed a recent ruling by a lower court that the District government argued would threaten public safety by preventing police from enforcing a provision of the city’s new gun law that requires individuals show “good cause” to obtain a permit to carry a firearm in public.
A U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit panel voted 2 to 1 to grant an administrative stay while it considers whether to halt, pending appeal, a May 17 order by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon. In granting an injunction sought by the gun rights group Pink Pistols and District resident Matthew Grace, Leon ruled that the “may issue” gun regulation is probably unconstitutional because it infringes on the Second Amendment’s grant of a “core right of self-defense.”
Attorneys for the D.C. government sought a stay to “preserve the status quo” while the courts grapple with a precedent-setting question of whether the right to bear arms extends outside the home — not just inside the home, as the U.S. Supreme Court decided in a 2008 case that struck down the District’s long-standing handgun ban.
The District also argued that a stay of Leon’s ruling would “preserve the integrity of the district court” and “respect” a March decision by another district court judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Kollar-Kotelly denied an identical request for an injunction against police enforcement of the “good reason” requirement in a similar case already on expedited appeal.
U.S. Appeals Court Judges Judith W. Rogers and Robert L. Wilkins voted for the stay, and Brett M. Kavanaugh would have denied it.
The District law gives police discretion and states that Chief Cathy L. Lanier “may issue” licenses to applicants who show “good reason to fear injury” or “any other proper reason for carrying a pistol,” such as having a job transporting cash or other valuables.
The District law, among the strictest in the country, matches those in Maryland, New Jersey and New York that federal appeals courts have said are constitutional. A decision on a similar law in San Diego is pending before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California.
Grace sued the District in December, arguing that the law violates the right to bear arms for self-protection, including against nonspecific or unexpected threats.