Under the emergency bill, D.C. residents will be able to carry concealed handguns — but under limited circumstances.
The attorney whose lawsuit led a federal judge to toss out D.C.'s longstanding ban on carrying guns outside the home is asking that same judge to block an emergency bill passed by the D.C. Council last month that allows certain residents to carry concealed handguns.
In a blistering court filing, attorney Alan Gura argues that the Council's bill — which limits concealed carry permits to residents who can prove they face a personal threat and restricts where they can travel with their handguns — does not meet the requirements of the late-July ruling in which Judge Frederick Scullin said the city's ban on carrying guns was unconstitutional.
"The Court's order specifically instructed, in accordance with Supreme Court precedent, that the right to carry handguns is rooted in a constitutional self-defense interest. Yet [D.C. officials] have replaced their 'no permits are available' handgun carry regime with 'no permits are available merely for self-defense, and not unless we think, in our complete discretion, that it's a good idea,'" he wrote.
The emergency bill passed on Sept. 23 allows residents over the age of 21 who say they face "good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property" to apply for a license to carry a concealed handgun. If granted — a decision that rests with MPD Chief Cathy Lanier — they would be prohibited from carrying in schools, government buildings, bars, stadiums, and within 1,000 feet of U.S. or foreign dignitaries.
Gura calls the new licensing scheme a "practical destruction of the right to bear arms" and "an impermissible prior restraint granting the licensing authorities unbridled discretion free of meaningful limitation," and asks Scullin to prohibit the city from implementing the new law.
Regulations are being drafted to allow MPD to implement the law, and city officials say that residents will be able to apply for concealed carry licenses by Oct. 22, the day a 90-day stay Scullin imposed on his ruling expires. A permanent version of the bill will be debated by the Council in late October or early November.
In his filing, Gura says that he and the plaintiffs he represents — three D.C. residents, one Maryland residents and a Washington state-based gun rights group — do not object to "standards that are actually aimed at ferreting out dangerous and irresponsible people," but that the city's emergency bill makes it too difficult for residents to carry handguns for self-defense.
D.C. officials have defended the law as an appropriate balance between Scullin's ruling and the city's unique security concerns, and point to similar measures in Maryland and New Jersey that have withstood court challenge.
They have asked Scullin to reconsider his ruling, and he has set a hearing for Oct. 17 on that motion. City officials have also requested a longer stay of the ruling, but have not yet said if they will appeal.