The nation’s most powerful appeals court has come down on the side of gun rights in a key concealed carry case that could mean the right to carry could go before the Supreme Court.
According to Fox News, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — generally considered the most important appellate court in the United States aside from the Supreme Court — ruled 2-1 that Washington, D.C.’s concealed carry restrictions were unconstitutional.
The District of Columbia has a statute that says concealed carriers must show “good reason” to concealed carry. According to Reason Magazine, that “good reason” must show some “special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks that demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life.”
In a 2-1 ruling in the case of Wrenn v. District of Columbia, the court struck the regulation down. The decision leaned heavily on another Second Amendment case from the District: D.C. v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court ruled the district’s outright ban on firearms violated the Constitution.
In his opinion for the majority, Judge Thomas Griffith said that “listening closely to Heller I reveals this much at least: the Second Amendment erects some absolute barriers that no gun law may breach.”
“Reading the Amendment, applying Heller I’s reasoning, and crediting key early sources, we conclude: the individual right to carry common firearms beyond the home for self-defense — even in densely populated areas, even for those lacking special self-defense needs — falls within the core of the Second Amendment’s protections,” he continued.
“We are bound to leave the District as much space to regulate as the Constitution allows — but no more. Just so, our opinion does little more than trace the boundaries laid in 1791 and flagged in Heller I,” Griffith wrote. “And the resulting decision rests on a rule so narrow that good-reason laws seem almost uniquely designed to defy it: that the law-abiding citizen’s right to bear common arms must enable the typical citizen to carry a gun.”
Perhaps most important is that the dissent, from Judge Karen Henderson, noted that she only felt the law “passes muster” because of Washington’s unique security concerns as the nation’s capital. That’s to say she might not feel the same way about concealed carry laws from other states.
That may be bad news for gun control advocates. The decision makes it more likely that concealed carry rights under the Constitution will come before the Supreme Court, particularly after the court refused to hear a similar case involving a California law.
In that case, according to Politico, Edward Peruta was denied a concealed carry because of California’s mandate that applicants show “good cause” and San Diego County’s insistence that personal safety did not entail good cause under California law.
In that case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Peruta and only two justices — Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch — had wanted to take up the matter. The fact that the D.C. Circuit has seemingly ruled against that rationale (and in a case where the security concerns that caused the one dissenting vote aren’t present) means that a higher court might be persuaded to fully sort out the issues regarding the constitutionality of concealed carry next time around.
For now, however, the real victors are Second Amendment supporters in the District of Columbia. As John R. Lott, Jr. of the Crime Prevention Research Center noted to Fox News, there are only 124 concealed carry holders in the nation’s capital at the moment.
“If D.C. were like the 42 right-to-carry states, they would have about 48,000 permits,” Lott said. “Right now D.C. prevents the most vulnerable people, particularly poor blacks who live in high crime areas of D.C., from having any hope of getting a permit for protection.”
Now they have that hope — all thanks to the Constitution and a very astute court.