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In Lawsuit, Gun Owners Say New D.C. Concealed Carry Law Is Unconstitutional

D.C. now allows residents and non-residents alike to apply for concealed carry permits, but a new lawsuit says the permits are too hard to come by.
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D.C. now allows residents and non-residents alike to apply for concealed carry permits, but a new lawsuit says the permits are too hard to come by.

Another lawsuit has been filed against the District over its gun laws, this time over a new measure allowing individuals to apply for permits to carry concealed handguns — a measure that itself was the product of another lawsuit.

In the lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court, two D.C. residents, one Florida resident and a Washington state-based gun rights group claim that the city's new permitting scheme is so restrictive that it represents an unconstitutional infringement on the Second Amendment.

"The Second Amendment right to bear arms includes the right to carry functional, loaded handguns in public areas for the purpose of self-defense," reads the lawsuit, which was filed by pro-gun attorney Alan Gura.

"This right, like others, is subject to some degree of regulation, but its status as a right precludes the government from regulating it out of existence or forcing individuals to prove their entitlement to its exercise," it argues.

The city's "may-issue" permitting scheme was passed by the D.C. Council last September after a federal judge overturned the city's longstanding ban on carrying handguns in public. It allows residents and non-residents alike to apply for concealed carry permits, though requires that they offer proof that they need the gun to defend themselves. If granted a permit, gun owners are limited in where they can carry their handgun.

Through late January, the Metropolitan Police Department had taken in 66 applications for concealed carry permits, granted eight and rejected 11. Three of those applicants who were denied — D.C. residents Brian Wrenn and Joshua Akery and Florida resident Tyler Whidby — are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Wrenn, a software developer who lives in Brookland, says that he wants to be able to defend himself if it's ever necessary.

"If I ever felt like something bad might happen to me, or I had a good reason to be in fear of my life or someone I care for, then the option to carry is something I value," he says.

The lawsuit says that the city's requirements that applicants prove they face a specific threat or work in an industry where they have to carry large amounts of cash or other valuables in order to get concealed carry permits are unconstitutional.

"Individuals cannot be required to prove a 'good reason' or 'other proper reason' for the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to keep and bear arms," it says.

D.C. officials have defended the new law, saying it properly balances the late-July ruling and the city's unique security needs. They also say that the law mirrors similar measures in Maryland and New Jersey, which have been upheld in court.

The lawsuit, which asks that D.C. be forbidden from enforcing the provisions of the new law, adds to the ongoing legal wrangling over the city's gun laws. Last year, Gura has asked a federal judge to hold the city in contempt over the concealed carry law, and D.C. has appealed the original ruling that overturned its ban on carrying guns in public.

It also marks yet another shot by Gura on the District's gun laws — he also argued the 2008 Supreme Court case that tossed out the city's total ban on handgun ownership.

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