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WASHINGTON — A case that may greatly expand concealed carry rights is now before a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
If successful, the challenge would overturn laws in the nation’s capital that allow citizens to carry a concealed weapon only if they have proven to law enforcement they have “good reason to fear injury” or have a “proper reason for carrying a pistol.”
Oral arguments took place in September, and a decision will be handed down in the coming months.
“This is the most important question in the Second Amendment today,” Adam Winkler of the UCLA School of Law told CNN about Washington, D.C.’s concealed weapons law. “Whether people can carry guns in public and under what conditions is a major battleground.”
Several D.C. residents are challenging the law. Under such laws only security professionals and people who transport valuables or large amounts of cash for their jobs — such as jewelers — generally qualify for a concealed weapons permit.
The plaintiffs, gun-rights groups and several Republican state attorneys general contend the law violates the Second Amendment. New York, Maryland and New Jersey have similar laws.
The District of Columbia is using the “good or proper reason” to do an end-run around the Second Amendment, argued Charles Cooper, an attorney for plaintiff Matthew Grace.
“Nearly a decade after Heller, the District of Columbia still refuses to treat the right to bear arms as a genuine constitutional right,” Cooper wrote in a court brief. Heller refers to District of Columbia v. Heller, a 2008 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Washington D.C.’s ban on private handgun ownership.
Attorneys for the District and gun-control groups argued that the law is necessary to protect private citizens and high-ranking officials from gun violence. But one judge, Thomas Griffith, questioned that argument. He wondered if living in a bad neighborhood would be a “good or proper reason” for a permit.
“Isn’t it an inherent right?” Griffith asked Washington D.C.’s. assistant attorney general, Holly M. Johnson. “Why should I have to show a need before exercising that right?”
Griffith and his colleague, Judge Stephen F. Williams, also wondered if a single woman who lived alone in a high-crime area would have a “good or proper reason” to get a concealed weapons permit. The district has one of the strictest concealed weapons permits laws in the nation.
Williams questioned if the law created an outright ban on concealed weapons which might violate the Second Amendment and the Heller decision, The Washington Post reported.
The case could end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This case is in its infancy,” Johnson said.
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