MAYOR Vincent C. Gray (D) and the D.C. Council are moving with appropriate speed and care to put in place emergency legislation that addresses a federal judge’s ruling that the city’s ban on concealed weapons is unconstitutional. The proposed permit and testing requirements are aimed at safeguarding public safety. We hope, though, that the District’s planned action isn’t an indication it won’t seek another remedy, namely to seek to overturn the judge’s finding that residents have a constitutional right to carry guns on the streets of the nation’s capital.
The D.C. Council is set to vote, and likely will approve, a bill on Tuesday that establishes a strict licensing regime for individuals to carry concealed firearms. The bill, modeled after similar laws in New York, New Jersey and Maryland, would allow D.C. residents who own registered handguns and nonresidents who have state-issued gun-carrying licenses to apply to D.C. police for carry permits. Applicants would have to demonstrate they need the permit because of a specific danger and there would be limits on where the guns are allowed.
The action is prompted by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr.’s ruling in July that struck down the city’s ban on carrying concealed weapons. He stayed the ruling until Oct. 22 to give the city time to bring its laws in compliance with his ruling. Clearly it is prudent for officials to create a licensing framework as a backstop while city lawyers study whether to appeal Judge Scullin’s ruling.
While any legal appeal has risk, there’s reason to believe that Judge Scullin’s reading of the Second Amendment extending outside the home would not be sustained. In overturning the District’s absolute ban on handguns, the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said that its decision rested on the fact that the ban applied to the home, “where the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute.” Moreover, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has held that the Second Amendment does not provide a right to carry a concealed weapon.
Mr. Gray was unequivocal when he said, “I happen to be one who does not support people walking around with guns — concealed or otherwise.” He is not alone in recognizing the danger of guns on the streets. We urge him to contest Judge Scullin’s ruling once the legislative patch is completed.
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