The D.C. Council will vote Tuesday on emergency legislation that would allow citizens of the District to carry concealed weapons in public.
Announced Wednesday, the proposal came in response to the U.S. District Court ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia, which deemed the gun regulations prohibiting D.C. citizens from carrying firearms outside of their homes unconstitutional.
Mayor Vincent Gray, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), all Democrats, proposed a piece of joint legislation, called the “License to Carry a Pistol Emergency Amendment Act of 2014,” that would place limitations on firearms possession and transportation while still according with the court ruling.
“The emergency legislation the Council will take up Tuesday reflects the District’s response to the Palmer ruling,” Mendelson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I continue to believe that the court ruling is overly broad and fails to consider the unique security concerns the District faces, but am hopeful that the District’s efforts to overturn or limit that ruling will be successful.”
The amendment proposes to restrict or limit the carrying of firearms in sensitive locations such as government buildings, public transportation units, places where alcohol is sold and served, schools and universities, stadium and arenas and situations that demand higher protection for officials or visiting dignitaries.
Additionally, the license to carry a firearm will only be extended to citizens who have a justifiable reason to fear for their safety and well-being — or have another legitimate reason to own a pistol — and who are deemed suitable to be carrying a firearm. Any individual who wants to apply for a concealed carry license must finish a thorough gun safety and handling training course.
“We are ready to move forward with a concealed carry licensing system for law-abiding and qualifying residents and nonresidents that complies with the court ruling while maximizing our focus on preserving public safety,” Mendelson wrote.
Gray also praised the licensing process that will allow eligible firearms owners to carry a firearm if necessary.
“In a process in which the chairman and I have been personally involved, our joint team has worked diligently to set up a licensing process that will provide a means for those responsible and suitable firearms owners who can show they have a legitimate need for it to obtain a permit to carry a weapon in public in a concealed manner,” Gray said in a press release. “At the same time, this legislation will ensure that the carrying of firearms remains prohibited or limited at sensitive locations and occasions in the District.”
If passed, the emergency bill will join Maryland, New Jersey and New York, states that share similar licensing regulations.
Doxie McCoy, a spokesperson for Mayor Vincent Gray, said the mayor’s office believes that bill will have a strong chance of being passed.
“We are confident the bill will pass since it was a collaborative effort between the mayor and the Council,” McCoy wrote in an email.
Georgetown University College Democrats Vice Chair Betsy Johnson (COL ’16) pointed at the higher rates of gun violence in D.C. to support the bill. She hopes the Palmer decision will be appealed and D.C.’s former regulations will be ruled constitutional, but in her opinion, the proposed amendment is a sound alternative.
“Hopefully, it will be declared constitutional, but in light of the fact that it has been declared unconstitutional, I think it’s a very reasonable measure, and hopefully it won’t be weakened,” Johnson said. “Forcing people to have to take gun training before they’re able to carry a weapon is very reasonable, there’s a lot of very reasonable restrictions in the bill.”
Mitchell Tu (SFS ’17), president of the Georgetown Young Americans for Liberty, supported the Palmer decision, but felt that the proposed emergency bill featured too many limitations.
“In terms of the legislation, we obviously are in favor of constitutional concealed carry of firearms. It’s something that’s stipulated in the Second Amendment of this country. However, when it comes to what the council is proposing, what they’re proposing is adding extra regulations,” Tu said.
Johnson emphasized that the presence of such important politicians and figures in the District make it apt for stricter gun laws.
“It’s definitely a huge issue for the state, especially [because] there’s a bunch of federal government buildings here. It makes sense that security would be tighter here. It’s an urban area, it’s not a rural district,” Johnson said.