The pro-gun coalition has geared up for a fight against the emergency legislation passed by the D.C. Council in response to the overturn of the ban on handguns.
In July, the U.S. District Court struck down the ban on conceal-and-carry weapons in Washington, D.C., in Palmer v. District of Columbia, permitting civilians to bear arms beyond the boundaries of their homes. In response, the D.C. Council passed joint legislation called the License to Carry a Pistol Emergency Amendment Act of 2014 on Sept. 23 to prevent the carrying of firearms in government buildings, schools, alcohol vendors and public transportation. The legislation also placed stringent requirements on the licensing process, only extending the licenses to people with a justifiable reason to fear for their safety.
On Oct. 2, pro-gun advocates filed a motion before District Judge Frederick Scullin, who issued the original ruling, to stop D.C. from implementing this bill. Plaintiff attorney Alan Gura argued that the legislation does not comply with constitutional standards and is prepared for a lengthy litigation.
“It is still in act with outright prohibition. The D.C. Council doesn’t understand that this is a right the people have, and that means when responsible, law-abiding people wish to exercise their right, they must be allowed to do so,” Gura said.
While Gura agreed that the city can regulate the carrying of handguns, he asserted that the restrictions in the bill make it virtually impossible for civilians to exercise their Second Amendment right and actually obtain a license.
“It treats the carrying of handguns as a special privilege that the police can decide when the mood strikes, and that’s not the way we handle constitutional rights in America,” Gura said.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who collaborated with Mayor Vincent Gray and Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) to propose the legislation, agreed that the flat ban on carrying weapons was unconstitutional but believed that the new law complied with the Second Amendment and would withstand the legal challenge.
“Even if the judge that ruled on our concealed carry ban handles this appeal and rules in favor of the plaintiffs, there’s a strong sense out there that we could be successful on appeal to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. We feel good about the emergency law that we have put into place in light of laws that have been upheld in other Circuit courts,” Mendelson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Georgetown University College Democrats Vice Chair Betsy Johnson (COL ’16) agreed that the restrictions were acceptable.
“I would agree that it is definitely constitutional — people are still allowed to have guns in their homes, which falls under the Second Amendment. However, D.C. is also a special situation because of its proximity to the government, so the limitations placed by the bill are reasonable,” Johnson said.
The plaintiffs, however, are preparing for a long legal battle.
“The right to speak freely, the right to vote, the right to be free of unreasonable intrusions — you don’t need to prove that you deserve these rights; they are undeniable rights. The same should be with guns,” Gura said. “This litigation will continue until the city accepts the basic reality, which is that the people must and will enjoy real, meaningful, practical rights under the Second Amendment.”