D.C. District Court Strikes Open Carry Ban; Appeal Expected - DC Circuit
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D.C. District Court Strikes Open Carry Ban; Appeal Expected

Chalk up another "W" for Alan Gura, the Second Amendment Foundation, and concealed carry advocates everywhere.

Washington, D.C., is home of some of the nation's most stringent gun laws, including a handgun registration requirement and a complete ban on concealed or open carrying outside of one's home. Or at least it was: It may soon have a pretty lax carrying policy after the District's ban was struck down by a federal district court.

Of course, appeals will likely follow, and stays could be issued, but for now, D.C. police will not be charging nonresidents with violating carrying laws if they are legally allowed to carry in their home states. As for residents, as long as the handgun is registered in accordance with D.C. law, carrying is permissible. As always, felons, spouse-beaters, and other individuals prohibited from owning firearms need not apply.

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District Court: Ban Violates 2nd Amendment

In an opinion borrowing heavily from the Seventh Circuit (Moore v. Madigan) and Ninth Circuit (Peruta v. San Diego), Senior U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Scullin held that the District's outright ban on concealed carry violated the Second Amendment's right to bear arms -- a right that extends outside of one's home into the public sphere.

The ruling follows the Seventh Circuit's holding that Illinois' complete ban was unconstitutional, as well as the Ninth Circuit's dismissal of California's county-by-county plan, which left discretion for issuing open-carry permits in the hands of local law enforcement (in practice, this often meant no permits at all).

Though Judge Scullin held that the District's outright ban on permits was unconstitutional, he also agreed with the Seventh Circuit that certain restrictions -- a ban on guns in schools, for example -- might be permissible.

D.C. Police Memo: Ban Won't Be Enforced

With a ton of caveats (i.e., this is not legal advice, don't rely on police departments not changing their minds, a stay of the decision and/or an appeal can change things in a hurry), the D.C. Police Department's policy for now seems to be one of non-enforcement.

According to an internal memo [PDF], posted online by Alan Gura, the department won't be charging individuals with violating the ban on carrying handguns, though registration requirements for residents still apply. Non-residents can also carry a handgun, as long as they are in compliance with their home state's laws.

Obvious caveat: Anyone legally barred from owning a firearm (because of a felony conviction, dishonorable discharge, domestic violence conviction, etc.) will be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm if caught carrying.

Another interesting point: David Kopel, writing for The Volokh Conspiracy, notes that the court decision repeatedly refers to handguns. The police department's memo, however, refers to firearms, though the examples provided only mention handguns. It is currently unclear whether the court's decision and the police department's non-enforcement policy applies to long guns (rifles and shotguns).

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