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Strict D.C. concealed carry gun permit law blocked by appeals court

In this April 30, 2016, file photo, an array of firearms are on display at the annual meeting of the United States Concealed Carry Association. (Lisa Marie Pane / Associated Press)
In this April 30, 2016, file photo, an array of firearms are on display at the annual meeting of the United States Concealed Carry Association. (Lisa Marie Pane / Associated Press)
Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked a District of Columbia law that makes it difficult for gun owners to get concealed carry permits by requiring them to show that they have a good reason to carry a weapon.

A divided three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the law requiring people to show “good reason to fear injury” or another “proper reason” to carry a weapon infringes on Second Amendment rights.

“At the Second Amendment’s core lies the right of responsible citizens to carry firearms for personal self-defense beyond the home, subject to longstanding restrictions,” Judge Thomas Griffith wrote for the majority. “These traditional limits include, for instance, licensing requirements but not bans on carrying in urban areas like DC or bans on carrying absent a special need for self-defense,” he wrote.

Judge Karen Henderson dissented, arguing that the court should defer to policymakers, who determined the law was necessary to ensure public safety. Henderson noted that D.C. has “unique challenges” as the home of the federal government, full of high-level officials, diplomats and protected buildings.

City law now requires residents to register guns kept at their homes or businesses. Anyone who wants to carry a weapon outside the home needs a separate concealed carry license.

The judges ordered a lower court to enjoin the city from enforcing the “good reason” law, but it remains in effect for now while D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine decides whether to ask for a full appellate review. If he does and the judges refuse to rehear the case, the order blocking the law would take effect shortly after, although Racine’s office could also appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Racine said Tuesday that his office is committed with working with the mayor and city council “to continue fighting for common-sense gun reforms.”

“The District of Columbia’s `good reason’ requirement for concealed-carry permits is a common-sense gun regulation, and four federal appeals courts have rejected challenges to similar laws in other states,” Racine said in a statement.

Under the law, reasons to get a permit might include a personal threat, or a job that requires a person to carry or protect cash or valuables. The police department has approved 126 concealed carry licenses and denied 400 other applications since July 2008, police said this month.

The ruling is the latest in a long-running battle over the city’s strict gun laws, which local leaders rewrote following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2008 striking down the city’s ban on handguns.

Lower court judges have been divided over the “good reason” law. In March, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sided with the city and declined to issue a preliminary injunction against enforcing it.

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