Washington DC: Carry Permit Regulations Part 1
Washington DC. City, State, or Federal Government’s Playground?
By Jay Busch
Washington DC has for years been the living embodiment of a child with divorced parents. The constant battle between Mom and Dad, or the voting populace and the Federal Government, has left many people wondering what actually goes on in the District.
Lets begin with the history portion. Back in 1788, the US secured the ninth state to ratify the Constitution. Contained within this document, in Article One, Section Eight, Congress was given sole jurisdictional oversight in the District. For the next one hundred and eighty five years, Congress made the rules in the absence of elected mayor and city council. On December 24th, 1973, this changed with the passage of District of Columbia Home Rule Act. Now, this might all sound trivial when it comes to firearms rights within the district, but I assure you that is far from the truth.
The Home Rule Act established a mayor and a city council but kept in place regulations that would allow congress to review all legislation passed by the council before it can become law. The Home Rule Act also limited the councils ability to make changes regarding judge appointments and court composition, to enact a unbalanced local budget, and to impose taxes on individuals that worked in the district, but lived elsewhere (which is the case of millions of workers in DC.)
With the passage of this act, the federal government in essence established a local puppet government that on the surface appears to have expanded the representation of the residents of DC. This puppet government in reality has no real power whatsoever. Additionally, as you may or may not know, residents of the district have zero representation in Congress and one delegate, who has no actual voting power on the floor, in the House of Representatives.
Now, if you made it this far, you might be asking yourself “How are US citizens not represented in the heart of democracy?” It’s simple, the district was set up as a federal district rather than a state. Remember that call from before the revolution of “No Taxation without Representation?” Ironic that at the pinnacle of this country, our citizens don’t have the rights guaranteed that stemmed from one of the most prominent issues that formed this country.
Ok, history lesson over. Now to the point of this multiple part series.
DC Gun Laws
I find it explicitly disheartening that something that was such an integral part of the creation of the United States is all but banned in the nation’s capital. Up until the famous 2008 case of District of Columbia vs Heller, handguns were banned for all private citizens.
Wasn’t there a section of the bill of rights that states “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed?” Is banning an entire category of firearms, primarily used in self defense, an infringement? Merriam Webster defines infringe as “to do something that does not obey or follow (a rule, law, etc.) and to wrongly limit or restrict (something, such as another person’s right.)”
Now I am not a lawyer, and I do not have a PHD. Yet I seem to be able to connect the dots and see that there is something awry. In essence, the people, who are US Citizens, are having their rights trampled three feet from the governing bodies that are supposed to uphold those rights.
This brings us to July of 2014 when a Federal Judge struck down Washington DC’s ban on carrying handguns outside the home as unconstitutional.
There is no longer any basis this Court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside of the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny.
Bold words coming from US District Court Judge Frederick J. Scullin. So now it was sent over to the city council for the district (remember, they can simply be trumped by the federal government.) Luckily, it was the federal government who forced them to establish rules and regulations regarding the issuance of permits.
So carrying is legal in DC now. Unfortunately, the honorable Scullin didn’t impose limitations on what rules and regulations the council, or the feds, could establish. This caused both bodies to follow suit after New York, Chicago (formerly,) and California. DC became a May Issue state, requiring applicants to “show a specific reason that they need one” among other requirements. Apparently residing in an area with the 8th highest murder rate (2012) isn’t enough justification for me to exercise my right to self defense.
As of April 6th, there have been, by the best information available, 21 carry permits issued within the District. At this pace, there will be about 80 issued within the year for a population of about 660,000. Compare that with my home state of Minnesota that has about 5.5 million residents and issued roughly 30,000 in 2014. After running the numbers, DC issues just 2.2% of what Minnesota issues (and while we are a Midwestern state, we are far from the most gun friendly out there.)
Fast forward to May 18th of this year. That day, the hero of our story, Federal Judge Frederick J Scullin granted a preliminary injunction against the requirement to demonstrate a “good reason” to receive a carry permit. In a 23 page position the judge wrote
For all intents and purposes, this requirement makes it impossible for the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens to obtain licenses to carry handguns in the public for self-defense, thereby depriving them of their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
If you haven’t joined the Scullin fan club by now, keep reading.
The issue here is not whether the District of Columbia’s ‘good reason/proper reason’ requirement is a reasonable or wise policy choice. Rather, the issue is whether this requirement, no matter how well intended, violates the Second Amendment.
Finally we arrive at present day. On June 29th, a federal appeals court ruled that the District can continue enforcing its new rules for gun permits pending a final ruling regarding the constitutionality of the law. When this three judge panel issued this ruling, they gave no opinion explaining the reasoning behind their decision. Rather than following in Scullin’s footsteps and explaining that whether or not he agrees with the ruling, he is still going to defend the Constitution, this panel (which is appointed, not elected) opted to not disseminate any reasoning regarding their decision.
Last time I checked, if I violate a law, depending on the degree of my crime, I would go to jail. If a appointed judge or federal police chief enacts laws that violate the consitution, they just get their decision overturned. Since when are elected officials above the law? Since when am I a subject, rather than a citizen? Since when did the people of this great nation, the bastion of liberty and freedom, sit by idly while our rights are being stripped and spit upon?
The time to act is now. Get involved. Email your representatives. Make your voice heard.
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