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February 14, 2016

D.C. Officials Plotting New Course to Keep Gun Control Intact (Updated)

Updated 7:30 p.m. | Though they won’t yet say how far they are willing to take their fight, District of Columbia officials plan to do everything in their power to limit the carrying of handguns in the nation’s capital, arguing that despite a court’s ruling that paves the way for more permissive laws, Washington is a unique place with heightened security concerns.

“An absolute ban on [carrying handguns] may not pass constitutional muster regardless of the judge, so we’re going to prepare by working on legislation that will pass muster” said Tommy Wells, a Democrat who represents Capitol Hill on the D.C. Council.

As chairman of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, Wells will play a key role in D.C.’s response to the July 26 ruling by Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. that declared the complete ban on carrying handguns in public unconstitutional. The court granted a stay of the ruling Tuesday, giving District officials 90 days to figure out how they will protect public safety while complying with the Constitution.

“We have to have a smart bill ready to go, and we can’t be in denial about this,” Wells said in a Wednesday interview. He offered Maryland’s permit law as an example. Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the state can require people applying for concealed-carry handgun permits to provide a “good and substantial reason” reason for wanting to carry.

“As restrictive as possible,” is the suggestion of D.C. Councilmember David Catania, a Republican-turned-independent who is running for mayor. He said the implications of the ruling are “very, very concerning.”

“Right now, our top priority must be public safety. I will continue to work with Chairman [Phil] Mendelson and my colleagues to determine next steps,” said Councilmember Muriel Bowser, Democratic nominee for mayor, in an email to CQ Roll Call “At the end of the day, we must strike the right balance between responsible gun ownership and protecting residents and visitors in the nation’s capital.”

Mayor Vincent Gray and his administration were still evaluating whether they would appeal the decision, but they say the stay — in effect until Oct. 22 — gives the city enough breathing room to figure out a strategy.

During a downtown news conference on Wednesday, Gray said he was working with public safety and law enforcement officials to “now really try to ascertain what all the ramifications of this ruling are.” That was “not entirely clear” for those who read the 19-page ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia, the mayor said.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said she got “unofficial word that the law had been banned” at 9 p.m. on July 26, a Saturday night, and then faced the challenge of “trying to inform a 5,000-person department that polices 24 hours a day, seven days a week” of the ramifications.

“There are lots of federal and local law enforcement folks that are allowed to be armed, that are out there in plain clothes and off duty that we encounter every day,” she said, “so it’s not that we’re not used to encountering people who are in fact armed — that’s not a big shift for us.”

If they choose to appeal, the D.C. attorney general’s office believes it has unique and powerful arguments to make about why a ban on carrying is necessary.

“There’s no court — the Supreme Court or any court in this city — that has put out a ruling that is operative that our current law does not survive,” said Ariel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel to the attorney general.

“We are the seat of the federal government,” he said. “We have dignitaries and other federal officials who are subject to constant death threats. We’ve had actual assassinations and assassination attempts using firearms in this city. We are a unique place.”

Capitol Hill is one of the areas local officials indicated they want to protect.

Demonstrators could come to the city “armed to the gills,” Cantania said in an interview. He said there is no telling what might happen when tempers are running high on the many international and domestic policies regularly debated in the halls of Congress. Catania said allowing people to carry handguns “intimidates another very important constitutional right, which is free speech.”

Wells said protecting members of Congress, staff and their families is “an obligation.” In response to Republican efforts to dismantle D.C.’s gun laws, Wells said, “if Congress decides no, they have to the power to change it.”

The man leading the charge in the House, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., taunted local leaders from the floor of the chamber about the impact of the judge’s ruling.

“Did gun-toting tourists commence to shoot-outs?” he asked rhetorically on Tuesday, three days after the judge’s order. “Did residents cower in their homes? Did vigilante posses maraud about the city? Did politicians revert to dueling at 10 paces? No, none of these things are happening. History will show the streets are safer today as more law-abiding residents and visitors are armed.”

Massie, a chief supporter of a House-passed proposal that opponents said would make D.C. one of the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the nation, said that contrary to “apocryphal warnings from D.C. leaders, no one is panicked — except for the city’s leaders.”


Related stories: 

Judge Stays D.C. Handgun Ruling for 90 Days

In D.C., Response to Judge’s Handgun Ruling Is Mixed and Muddled

Charges in Campus Handgun Cases Could Change in Wake of D.C. Handgun Ruling

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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  • Andrew

    These local officials are out of touch with reality. DC is the only place in the country that doesn’t allow concealed carry. Is blood running in the streets of Fairfax? Of course not. Unfortunately the Mayor and Council are just going to spend the next 90 days in denial and then will ask for another delay because of DC’s “special circumstances.”

    • wfcollins

      Technically all of the states allow concealed carry, but in practice it is all but impossible here in CA to get a permit in any populated area.

      • ProperModulation

        You should try New Jersey. With a population of almost 9 million people, there are only an estimated 2500 CCW holders. Most of those are working private armed guards and politicians. Even correctional officers are not allowed to carry in NJ. Compare that to next state over, PA with over half a million licenses issued.

        • TexTopCat

          New Jersey does not even understand why self defense guns should be loaded with Hollow Point bullets. Their ignorance is making everyone less safe.

        • interstellar

          2500? Not even! It’s about 1200. Retired law enforcement is about 10k but they have special permits.

        • interstellar

          BTW correctional officers CAN carry. They are sworn LEO with police powers.

      • vincewarde

        Actually, Sacramento County is “virtual shall issue”, as a result of a lawsuit settlement this accept “self defense” as “good cause” to issue a permit.

        • wfcollins

          I stand corrected. I live in the Bay Area and was focused on here and in LA.

        • interstellar

          Many counties near the coast are not. It’s only through lawsuits are they loosening up.

  • spencer60

    They will pull the same garbage that Illinois (aka Chicago) tried, and get slapped down just like they did.

    Chicago just paid the NRA over a million dollars in court fees for that attempt… how much of our money will DC spend to fight against the Constitution?

    • TexTopCat

      Hopefully the house bill to de-fund their gun control enforcement will settle the matter. There is no excuse for “may issue” or “no issue”.

  • JSH

    This, “we’re special” argument is completely invalid, not to mention ludicrous. They actually believe that a law that says law abiding citizens can’t carry a gun in public is somehow going to stop a deranged lunatic from attempting to assassinate the president of the United States? That itself is insane. Anyone that’s planning to kill someone doesn’t care that the law says they can’t carry a gun. And the president? If the death penalty doesn’t deter them some gun law sure as hell isn’t going to. This ruling only applies to law abiding Americans. There’s nothing in it or any other gun law that gives criminals or lunatics the right to legally carry a gun in public. Those people are already carrying illegally anyway.

    • Jim Dandy

      It stopped James Hinkley Jr didn’t it? How about Francisco Duran? Ronald Barbour? Wait, they ALL did it?

      • JSH

        Um, NO? Hinkley actually shot Reagan, Duran actually fired rounds at the White House, just because they weren’t successful doesn’t mean the gun laws stopped them. That credit goes to The Secret Service; not the laws. If it had been the laws they wouldn’t have had the guns in the first place.

  • Brian Coss

    “Maryland’s permit law as an example. Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that the state can require people applying for concealed-carry handgun permits to provide a “good and substantial reason” reason for wanting to carry.”

    Heller vs. DC, ruled the 2nd Amendment to be a protected individual right. Yet in Maryland there exists an arbitration agent designed to block said protected individual right for the majority of those citizens that apply for a permit. In Maryland the Right is currently relegated to privilege status. Maryland fails to understand the difference between a Right and a privilege. This needs to be corrected.

    • Guest

      To get the rare Maryland permit, you must be either rich (and white), politically connected (and white) or have multiple verifiable death threats or sustain multiple assaults. It’s a racist, elitist system and hasn’t made PG County or Baltimore any less violent.

      • bbgunplinkplink

        It’s just like Mass.

  • PhilipVanCleave

    I can say just how disgusted I am with City Council. They are asking themselves, “How can we violate the rights of Americans? Doesn’t matter how much danger we put citizens in. We want to maintain our power over them at any cost.”

  • Charles Newman

    Washington is a unique place alright. I’d be nervous, too, if I spent my political career trying to undermine our Constitution and freedoms in the name of security.

  • ToryII

    Antigun laws have never made the public safe.

    • Metric-Buttload

      yes, it’s one of those odd political items that despite the fact that no one has even been able to prove any benefit of gun control, it is still accepted by many that as a logical argument. Go figure.

  • Christopher J Hoffman

    The idea that DC could comply with this Court’s ruling by using Maryland’s scheme as a model is preposterous. Instead, this court favorably cited the Peruta decision in which the ninth circuit court of appeals struck California’s “good and substantial reason” requirement for carry licenses.

    The fourth circuit decision in Woolard upholding Maryland’s ‘good and substantial reason’ clause could not be more at odds with the ninth circuit decision in Peruta. Nope, if this ruling survives, DC will have ‘shall-issue’ carry licensing.

    • ProperModulation

      Don’t get your hopes up. The rumors are that Justice Kennedy only sided with the majority for the Heller decision if language was included that like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. This slams the door wide open to regulation of CCW. The extent is still to be decided. But I would not be confident of having Kennedy’s vote again.

      • TexTopCat

        You are correct. I think we really need badly for the Peruta decision to be upheld by the SC.

  • RR

    Hmmm “good and substantial reason.” What about: 1) For my own protection because ridiculous gun control laws have made this one of the most dangerous places in the United States or 2) Because I FEEL LIKE IT and it’s a guaranteed RIGHT. There we go, problem solved. Glad I could help.

    • ProperModulation

      In there was a gentleman who owned a business with Automate Teller Machines in some of the less desirable areas in NJ. He would need to refill them with cash in the evenings. He applied for CCW and was rejected. He appealed his case to the SCOTUS and they declined to hear his case. What does that tell you about “good and substantial reason?”

      • RR

        It tells me it is way past time to start electing new public officials.

      • JSH

        These “may issue” laws are almost as unconstitutional as an outright ban. The 2nd Amendment protects our right to bear arms. The 5th Amendment protects us from being denied our rights without due process. So, the applicant has the right to bear arms. If that right is to be denied, then it’s the government that should have to show a “good and substantial reason”; not the applicant. The burden of proof is on the government if they intend to deny someone’s rights. They should have to show that the applicant would be a significant danger to the public if allowed to go armed. And they should have to prove that court. Simply saying that public safety is at risk if the applicant carries a gun is NOT a “good and substantial cause” to deny him/her the right that is protected by the supreme legal document in the nation. May issue laws are not only violating the Constitution, they’re actually doing the exact opposite of what the Constitution says they MUST do.

  • yardbird1947

    This has long sense ceased to be about the safety of D.C. citizens. It is about the power of the Council to control.

  • Mark Brookhart

    Any law (legislation) or ruling that seeks to impose conditions upon a lawful citizen keeping (ownership) or bearing (carrying, either concealed or openly) any arm (weapon, not limited to firearms, but including bladed weapons, etc) is an infringement upon that Constitutionally guaranteed right. Yet it is not the constitution that gives the right, only that acknowledges the right. Almost all current gun laws infringe upon the right. Only those laws that provide for arrest and prosecution for harm or criminal action using a gun are lawful. The mere possession or ownership of any gun should not ever be a arrestable offence under Constitutional law. No permit, license or permission from government should be required under any circumstances. Registration equates to permission and permission denies the existent right since permission is given and taken away by authority other than the inherent or preexisting right.

    • ProperModulation

      So your OK with violent felons on parole purchasing guns or people who have been adjudicated as mentally ill? Any regulation on fully automatic weapons? I’m very pro 2nd amendment, but you position may be a bit out of the mainstream even among supporters.

      • ToryII

        I’ve never been concerned with “mainstreaming” the 2nd amendment. Violent felons get guns anytime they have the money for them (gun laws have neverr stopped bad people from obtaining or using guns). Full auto guns should not be regulated at all. A person really nuts isn’t capable of buying a gun. Get real.

      • Mark Brookhart

        A felon already can not own or possess any firearm unless a judge rules that the felony conviction be set aside. A felon is a lawbreaker, not a law abiding citizen (if you had more carefully read my thesis) and such felon has lost their citizen’s rights to vote, own or possess a firearm or hold public office. As for the mentally ill… who determines mental illness? Do you? Do I? Is depression enough to take away a lawful citizen’s rights to possess a firearm even before they attempt a gun related crime? Will the police confiscate all firearms in the home if a person in that home says something that “concerns” them? Are you in favor of taking away any or all Constitutionally protected rights before a person has been convicted of a crime? If you do, then you are are in favor of the kind of tyranny Orwell warned about. I believe liberals are mentally ill in that they have a serious perception disorder and if you look at the hard data, statistically, almost all criminal gun violence is carried out by those who either vote Democratic, or would if they voted or were lawfully able to vote. Very few violent criminals are those who identify themselves as conservative Republicans, independents or libertarians. Go on…. research it. Much of the gun crime is also done by those who are also minorities So, on the basis of the data, let’s remove guns from all Democrats and watch the gun violence decrease substantially. Offensive speech yes, but statistically correct. The preponderance of gun violence is accomplished by those who already are not allowed by law to own a gun such as in the case of felons and youth to whom a gun can not be legally sold. Most perform their crimes in gun free zones such as in inner cities. My suggestions regarding repealing unconstitutional laws would not return gun ownership to them. On the basis of the 2nd Amendment alone, the founders didn’t make exceptions for those whom others might judge as unworthy of keeping or bearing arms. I suppose King George thought the colonists were unqualified to own muskets and cannon and that is why he attempted to take them away from them.

      • Mark Brookhart

        Oh, and to add to my other reply. I could own a dozen fully automatic firearms or even weapons of mass destruction for a lifetime without having one single thought of using them in a criminal action. I am sure there are many other people who have the same convictions. And by paying a $200 registration fee I can legally own a fully automatic rifle. So how does that endanger anyone? However, I agree that there are many people I would not personally want to have possession over any guns of any kind. Most of them are working for liberal politicians. But that is not my call to make, nor yours.

  • Metric-Buttload

    ““Right now, our top priority must be public safety” This has nothing to do with public safety and all about the leftist political ideals of gun control and people control. There is no evidence that suggests that lawful concealed carry is a risk to public safety. So, to appeal to public safety when that argument is not supported by any facts is disingenuous and a poor substitute for a facts based argument.

  • Jim Dandy

    Hey Ariel Levinson-Waldman (“We’ve had actual assassinations and assassination attempts using firearms in this city. We are a unique place.”) Dallas called. They said you’re not that unique.

    • ThoseCrazyLiberals

      Phoenix is holding on line 2, Sacramento on line 3, and San Francisco on line 4

      • Jim Dandy

        I think we need to add more lines for Buffalo, El Paso, Milwaukee, Miami, Palm Beach, and somewhere in the state of Tennessee.

  • vincewarde

    The problem with trying to make the law, “As restrictive as possible” is that right now we do not know what that standard is. Maryland is NOT the only ruling on the subject, Both the 7th and 9th Circuits have ruled that laws like the one in Maryland are unconstitutional. Illinois actually decided not to appeal the 7th Circuit ruling. The 9th Circuit ruling may be appealed to the entire 9th Circuit – but if they loose there, I highly doubt that they will appeal to SCOTUS. Gun control advocates do not want the high court to decide this issue.

    Then there is this case. I think it unlikely that DC will appeal – because they know they will loose. That leaves them with a choice: Do they consider the recent Illinois law to be the most restrictive possible or do they go with the Maryland law knowing that the other side will like appeal to the DC Court of Appeals? The smart move would be to copy the Illinois law – but that probably won’t set well in DC, so I bet that they will adopt the Maryland system. It should be noted that the Maryland law was not actually upheld – rather the plaintiff lost because he never applied for a permit. It was not decided on the the constitutional merits of the law.

    This case has implications far beyond carry. The first carry case to get to SCOTUS will likely determine what level of legal protection (scrutiny) the 2nd Amendment right gets. Looking at Heller and McDonald – the two previous cases – it appears that it will likely be strict scrutiny (highest level of protection), intermediate scrutiny (2nd highest) or something in between. This question will likely decide the fate of thousands of gun laws throughout the country. If SCOTUS decides for strict scrutiny or something close to it, not only will all American’s likely have a right to a carry permit, that can only be denied for cause – but most of the gun laws in liberal states like CA and NY will be struck down too.

    SCOTUS does not want to rule on this, They are clearly hoping that with 43 states being “shall issue” or better, and all 50 states issuing permits, that they will not have to rule. This court did the same thing – they sat on the case for 5 years! The dumbest thing that DC could do is to adopt a system that would encourage SCOTUS to take the case. If they are smart, they will adopt the Illinois law, not the Maryland law.

    • ProperModulation

      Imagine Justice Kennedy ruling the other way and having the decision go against gun rights. Remember, there is only one swing vote here. There may be a good reason that a case is not being heard. If you unsure of the outcome, you may not want to take the chance of thing not going your way.

  • vincewarde

    Looking away from the legal issues and towards the political ones – how absurd it is that the anti-gun right crowd is still dragging out the old tried argument that blood will run in the streets if law abiding people who a screened and trained are allowed to carry. 43 states or 86% of states have “shall issue” CCW laws – meaning that if you meet all the requirements you cannot be denied a permit. Out of the 43 states that have taken this step over the past 30 years how many have turned out the way the anti-gun rights, anti-self defense crowd predicted? How many have turned into the “Wild West”? ZERO. THAT’S RIGHT, ZERO.

    At what point do we conclude that the people making these predictions are simply lying? After all, 43 states and 30 years should be enough to predict what will happen in the next state to adopt “shall issue”.

    If you want to learn more, check out this heavily sourced post:

  • ToryII

    The only purpose of the 2nd amendment is to prohibit Govts from regulating our weapons.

  • disqus_hNXvhwdNeI

    DC isn’t so special that the Constitution doesn’t apply.

    • lbeacham

      DC should be a model for the rest of the country by in forcing and adhering the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Most there would burn it if they could.

  • nynetguy

    ““Right now, our top priority must be public safety. I will continue to work with Chairman [Phil] Mendelson and my colleagues to determine next steps,” said Councilmember Muriel Bowser, Democratic nominee for mayor.”

    Really? Where was that concern when DC had the highest violent crime rate?

  • JP4JC

    The government will NOT and CANNOT protect people, Just look at our southern border , We have a bill of rights not a bill of prove why you need to carry !

  • hurricane567

    “Did vigilante posses maraud about the city? Did politicians revert to dueling at 10 paces?” Actually, those 2 things may not be terrible ideas for D.C. lol

  • robertg222

    So please explain how letting the law abiding carry a gun for self defense is in any way going to be a security concern? If anything it will help security.

    ”When any nation mistrusts it’s citizens with guns it is sending a clear message. It no longer trusts it’s citizens because such a government has evil plans”
    -George Washington

  • TexTopCat

    “Right now, our top priority must be public safety.” – I want to know who’s safety they care about? Not the good citizen for sure, maybe safer for criminals and people with body guards.

  • Texas_Ranger

    Federal Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. who made this ruling in the first place should have only given them a 30 day stay for D.C. to come up with standards that conform to the 2nd Amendment like he said. Then he should turn around and pick 1 of the 43 “shall issue” states of his choosing and force D.C. to have the same exact law. Like Michigan for instance. they are 1 of 6 states with the toughest restrictions for CPL/CCW Permit.

    click on this link if you want to see Michigan’s Requirements:,4643,7-123-1591_3503

    Many States have very similar CPL/CCW requirements and Laws.
    If this isn’t satisfactory enough for the skeptics then there is pretty much nothing that will satisfy them.

    I live in there and have had my CPL for the last 8 years,
    having just renewed and having it valid for the next 4 years. I routinely go to
    my local range and practice, practice, practice. All drills possible, shooting
    stances, different yardages and moving targets. Under the guidance of a
    personal friend of mine who also happens to be a firearms instructor of the
    Police Department. Let me say that I’m very thankful that ever since I’ve had
    my CPL I have never had an encounter yet that has forced me to defend myself or my family or anyone else for that matter. And I hope that I never do. But, God
    forbid it does happen, believe me, I will not hesitate.

  • Aztec01

    “The court granted a stay of the ruling Tuesday, giving District
    officials 90 days to figure out how they will protect public safety
    while complying with the Constitution.”

    Uh, complying with the Constitution DOES Protect public safety!!!!

  • Felix Mendelsoon

    If someone wants to attack a politician, a foreign dignitary, or some other high power person, do you think they’re going to care about breaking a gun law?

    Further, DC is already awash in illegal guns, and there are shootings every day. Law abiding folks don’t commit crimes with guns.

    These politicians are full of hot air.

  • Max Hvy

    The judge allowed Marylands law to stand because any Marylander who feels they need a gun for self defense can carry a long gun. That was what the AG told the court so the court agreed that Marylanders had no need for concealed carry permits. Would California have won Peruta If they could still walk around with empty guns? Would Wisconsin and Ohio be shall issue if the police weren’t loosing lawsuit after lawsuit? Look at what happened in Texas. After a few weeks long gun open carry was no longer newsworthy. Every one of those victories were hard won and deservedly so too bad some states are as yet unworthy.

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