Washington, D.C.’s efforts to prevent law abiding citizens from carrying firearms for personal protection got the stiff arm last Thursday from the whole bench of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
In a sparsely worded order, the full court declined to rehear the July 25, 2017 decision of a three-judge panel that had invalidated DC’s requirement that applicants for Concealed Pistol Licenses show “good cause” to carry a handgun outside the home.
After losing before the Court’s 3-judge panel, the City had petitioned the full Court of Appeals, consisting of 10 active judges and one senior judge to rehear the case, arguing that the panel’s decision was inconsistent with the decisions of four other federal circuit courts and that DC, as the seat of government, was a uniquely sensitive area. According to the Court’s order, it declined DC’s invitation because not a single judge of the Court had asked for a vote on the city’s petition.
The July 25th decision was in the combined cases of Wrenn v. D.C. and Grace v. D.C, which challenged the District’s may issue concealed carry licensing scheme. In a nutshell, the three-judge panel held the District’s restrictive licensing scheme unconstitutional and ordered the District Court to permanently enjoin D.C. from enforcing its “good cause” requirement to obtain a concealed carry license.
The decision will become effective when the D.C. Circuit issues its mandate for Wrenn and Grace, expected by October 5, 2017. Unless the Court stays its decision, or unless DC is able to convince the Supreme Court to stay the decision, the District will become shall issue when the Court’s mandate is issued.
Unless the Court stays its decision ...
the District will become a 'shall issue' jurisdiction ...
DC’s last chance to maintain its restrictive carry licensing scheme is to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. The District has not announced whether it will ask the high court to intervene. The Supreme Court has discretion over what cases it takes. The overwhelming majority of petitions for the Court to hear a case are denied. However, because the D.C. Circuit’s decision conflicts with the decisions of four other federal circuits, Supreme Court may very well hear the case to resolve the matter.
Should the high court accept the case for review, it will have the opportunity to clarify how lower courts analyze Second Amendment cases. To date the lower courts have rejected most Second Amendment challenges to state and federal firearm regulations, prompting criticism that the lower courts are treating the Second Amendment as a second class right.
Considering the composition of the Supreme Court, DC may very well be reluctant to seek review of Wrenn and Grace. Further, other jurisdictions might discourage DC from pursuing the matter. If the high court affirms the D.C. Circuit, similar "may issue" permitting schemes in Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Hawaii, New York and portions of California would likely be doomed. In addition, a strong Second Amendment decision from the Supreme Court could derail other gun control statutes across the nation, including those of the District’s. The anti-self-defense lobby may decide they’d prefer the District to accept defeat and forego Supreme Court review if it posed such a risk of overturning much of their gun control agenda nationwide.
Kudos to lawyers Alan Gura and Charles Cooper for their victory and our friends Brian Wrenn and Matthew Grace for standing up for their rights.