If anyone has been able to get a concealed-carry permit in the District of Columbia since it was ordered by a court to allow such permits, Alan Gottlieb would like to know the secret of their success.
That’s because the district’s police chief, Cathy Lanier, has rejected almost every applicant since the city’s new gun-permit law went into effect six months ago. Less than 10 people are known to have successfully obtained a permit, says Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation.
SAF announced this week it is suing the District of Columbia, challenging its highly restrictive concealed-carry permit process, which requires applicants to have a “good reason” to carry a weapon.
Lawyers for SAF say this policy violates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. SAF is joined in the suit by three private citizens, Brian Wrenn and Joshua Akery of Washington, D.C., and Tyler Whidby, a Florida resident who also maintains a residence in Virginia.
The District of Columbia and Lanier are named as defendants.
The lawsuit charges that “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.”
All three plaintiffs in the case have applied for D.C. carry permits and have been turned down by Lanier because they could not “demonstrate a good reason to fear injury to person or property,” the lawsuit states.
Gottlieb said he could only find evidence of eight permits being issued by the District of Columbia. The overwhelming majority of applicants are denied for no reason other than that the district did not want to issue them a permit.
“The city’s requirements to obtain a carry permit are so restrictive as to be prohibitive to virtually all applicants,” said Gottlieb. “It’s rather like a ‘Catch 22,’ in which you can apply all day long, but no reason is sufficiently good enough for Chief Lanier to issue a permit.”
He said the city has set the bar so high that it “relegates a fundamental civil right to the status of a heavily-regulated government privilege.”
That is not only wrong, Gottlieb said, it also does not live up to a previous court ruling in favor of SAF, in which a judge rejected on July 26 of last year the city’s total ban on carrying handguns.
Law-abiding citizens who clear background checks and are allowed to have handguns in their homes are being unnecessarily burdened with the additional requirement of proving some special need, he said.
Denying a carry permit for the lack of a “good reason” would be like the government denying a Freedom of Information Act request because a citizen didn’t have a “good reason” for asking for public information, Gottlieb said.
“The last time we checked,” Gottlieb said, “we had a Bill of Rights that applied to the entire nation, including the District. It’s not, and never has been, a ‘Bill of Needs.'”
The city is still appealing its July 26 loss in Palmer v. District of Columbia, the SAF-sponsored case that struck down the city’s total ban on carrying handguns.
D.C. is what is considered a “may issue” jurisdiction, like New York, Connecticut and many other blue states, as opposed to “shall issue” states like Georgia, Alabama and Texas. This means that if the person applying meets the age requirements and passes a background check, the state “shall issue” the permit. They have no other reason to deny.
The courts have not yet ruled on SAF’s claim that the city’s “may issue” law violates the Palmer injunction.
“We will give the courts every chance to bring Washington, D.C., into constitutional compliance,” said attorney Alan Gura, who represents SAF and the other plaintiffs in both cases.
The Second Amendment Foundation, founded in 1974, has 650,000 members.