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Appeals Court Strikes Down D.C. Concealed Weapons Law

Decision conflicts with other circuit court rulings

A federal appeals court has struck down a District of Columbia concealed firearms law. (iStock)
A federal appeals court has struck down a District of Columbia concealed firearms law. (iStock)

A federal appeals court struck down a District of Columbia law Tuesday that required a “good reason” to carry a concealed firearm, ruling that it essentially bans the Second Amendment right for most D.C. residents.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit conflicts with rulings from other appeals courts on concealed-carry rights, potentially ripening the issue for a Supreme Court that for years has stayed on the sidelines of gun control laws.

The D.C. Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled the Second Amendment’s right of responsible citizens to carry firearms for personal self-defense beyond the home is not subject to bans on carrying in urban areas like the District or carrying absent a special need for self-defense.

“In fact, the Amendment’s core at a minimum shields the typically situated citizen’s ability to carry common arms generally,” the majority wrote. “The District’s good-reason law is necessarily a total ban on exercises of that constitutional right for most D.C. residents.”

While the majority wrote “that’s enough to sink this law” under the Supreme Court’s previous rulings, it also pointed out that four other appeals courts have come to different conclusions on good-reason limits to carrying weapons.

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, a President George H.W. Bush appointee, dissented. She wrote that D.C. had shown that the law would promote public safety.

The Supreme Court declined the chance to decide the issue in June, when it turned aside an appeal of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco that held there is no constitutional right to carry a concealed weapon in public. The 9th Circuit upheld policies in California counties that require a “good cause” to obtain a license to do so.

The Supreme Court hasn’t decided a major case over how much lawmakers can limit the Second Amendment in more than five years.

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