In a stunning development, District of Columbia officials decided in October that they would not appeal a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit concerning the District’s discretionary concealed carry licensing regime.
This means the District of Columbia – which just over nine years ago banned handgun possession itself – is now a “shall-issue” jurisdiction for concealed carry permits.
The story of how D.C. went from banning handguns to joining the 42 right-to-carry states is one of sustained effort and painstaking advocacy. Your NRA has been there at each critical skirmish in this ongoing battle.
First came the historic decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. There, the U.S. Supreme Court held that D.C.’s ban on handgun possession and functional firearms within the home violated the Second Amendment. It also conclusively rejected spurious arguments that the Second Amendment protects only a “collective” right of states to maintain militias or an individual right, but only in the context of serving in such a militia.
The District’s reaction to Heller was defiance and denial. It enacted a prohibitively expensive and highly bureaucratic firearm registration system, effectively banned gun shops within D.C., banned many popular firearms, rationed gun sales, and repealed the long-dormant authority of the police chief to issue licenses to carry.
This provoked additional litigation, which for years worked its way through the federal court system, with mixed results for gun owners. Yet even gun-shy federal judges found occasions to rebuke District officials for overreaching into the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding residents.
One case in point was 2014’s Palmer v. District of Columbia, in which the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held that D.C. officials could not ban carrying firearms outside the home for self-defense.
In response to Palmer, D.C. established a licensing regime that effectively granted the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department discretion over who received a license, a power the chief exercised to summarily dismiss nearly all applications.
Needless to say, this provoked additional litigation. The specific legal issue at stake centered on whether District officials could require applicants to show a “good” or “proper” reason for needing to carry a concealed handgun that distinguished them from the general population. This meant that most otherwise qualified applicants could not obtain a permit, which is the only way to lawfully carry a loaded, accessible firearm in D.C. for self-defense.