What Does D.C. Court Decision Mean for States With Tough Concealed Carry Laws?

The district's current concealed carry permit rules have been deemed unconstitutional.

Washington D.C.'s current concealed carry permit rules have been deemed unconstitutional.
Washington D.C.'s current concealed carry permit rules have been deemed unconstitutional. photo from TheHill.comweb photo

Earlier this week, a two-to-one federal Circuit court decision struck down Washington D.C.'s current concealed carry handgun law, giving the district a chance to become like the 42 states with right-to-carry laws, according to this story from TheHill.com.

The story says that the strict rules about who is granted a permit in D.C. have kept the number of CCW licenses to just 124. It's estimated that if D.C. were a "shall issue" district and permits weren't so expesive, it would have about 48,000 permits issued at the moment.

The story says more than 16.3 million people in the U.S. have concealed-carry permits. While all 50 states issue permits in some capacity, eight of them are restrictive, like D.C., New Jersey, California, and New York to name a few. In the 42 states that grant permits, an average of 8 percent of adults have them.

This story from NRA-ILA says the decision could potentially have greater ramifications for those eight restricted states.

“Wrenn and Grace therefore presented the appellate court with the questions of whether the Second Amendment’s right to ‘bear’ arms for self-defense extends beyond the home and, if so, whether District officials could nevertheless deny that right to all but a select, hand-picked few. The court’s answer to those questions was a resounding ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ respectively.”

Furthermore, the current D.C. law requires law-abiding citizens to demonstrate a “good” or “proper” reason to have a CCW permit, a requirement the court declared invalid and unconstitutional.

This means D.C. must now issue permits to applicants who pass a background check and complete training requirements—and pay the necessary fees, of course. If the District decides to appeal the matter, it could be reheard before a full D.C. Circuit court, or it could be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision there could mean all similar rules in the U.S. would be declared invalid.

TheHill.com story quotes the only dissenting opinion file by Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson who wrote that D.C. is special because it's "a city full of high-level government officials, diplomats, monuments, parades, protests and demonstrations and, perhaps most pertinent, countless government buildings where citizens are almost universally prohibited from possessing firearms."

John Lott counters in the article, as he often does, with statistics, writing, "Out of all mass public shootings in the US since 1950 over 98 percent of attacks occurred in places where general citizens were banned from carrying guns. Gun-free zones actually encourage these attacks, because killers seek out defenseless victims. Henderson's dissent is also surprisingly poorly informed about the research on concealed handgun laws."