A federal appeals court has temporarily suspended a lower court ruling that cast doubt on the constitutionality of a key provision of the District’s gun-control law.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said this week that the court would move quickly to review the law that requires residents to show “good reason” to obtain a license to carry a firearm on the streets of the nation’s capital.
The D.C. law is similar to those in Maryland, New Jersey and New York that federal appeals courts have said are constitutional. On Thursday, a federal appeals court in California upheld a similar policy in San Diego.
In a split decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said that there “is no Second Amendment right for members of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”
The San Diego policy states that “simply fearing for one’s personal safety alone is not considered good cause” for the purposes of obtaining a license.
The majority opinion, written by Judge William A. Fletcher, made a distinction between concealed carry and open carry, and did not try to answer whether the Second Amendment protects “some ability to carry firearms in public, such as open carry.”
The Supreme Court in 2008 used a D.C. case to declare an individual right to bear arms, but it has not yet ruled on whether firearms regulations for carrying in public, such as those in San Diego and the District, are constitutional.
In the District, resident Matthew Grace and the gun rights group Pink Pistols said the local law violates their rights to carry in public for self-protection, including against nonspecific or unexpected threats.
The D.C. Circuit order — issued by Judges Thomas B. Griffith, Sri Srinivasan and Patricia A. Millett — put on hold a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon. In May, Leon found that the city’s gun regulation is probably unconstitutional because it infringes on the Second Amendment’s “core right of self-defense.”
Leon’s ruling is directly at odds with another judge’s decision on the same court in a similar case that is also pending in the D.C. Circuit.
D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said Thursday that the panel’s order will allow the city to fully enforce its gun laws while it appeals Leon’s decision.
“The District’s gun laws are constitutional, reasonable, and in line with laws in other states that three other federal appellate courts have upheld,” he said in a statement.