D.C. can require gun applicants to provide a ‘good reason’ for now

A federal appeals court has ordered a stay of a judge’s ruling in a challenge to the District’s gun laws.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia temporarily blocked a decision made last month by U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. that stopped the District from enforcing a key provision of its gun laws. That provision requires a person to state a “good reason” for carrying a weapon in order to obtain a permit from police.

The stay, granted late Friday, is a minor victory for the District in the ongoing court battle over its gun laws. Scullin ruled last year that the District’s long-standing ban on carrying firearms in public was unconstitutional. As a result, the D.C. Council reworked the law in September, but included a condition — known as the “good reason/proper reason” requirement — for obtaining a permit. Similar provisions exist in Maryland, New York and New Jersey.

Last month, Scullin said in a 23-page opinion that the condition “impinges on Plaintiffs’ Second Amendment right to bear arms,” because it fails to target dangerous people or specify how or where individuals carry weapons. The appeals court said the temporary stay was intended to give it additional time to consider whether to block the lower court’s ruling.

“The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion for stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion,” the order reads. The appeals court also ordered the parties to respond by Thursday to a motion to block Scullin’s decision pending an appeal of the ruling.

Brian Wrenn, two other individual plaintiffs and the Second Amendment Foundation filed the legal challenge to the city’s gun laws, which are among the strictest in the country.The provision being reviewed gives police discretion to grant licenses to applicants who show “good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property” or “any other proper reason for carrying a pistol,” such as employment transporting cash or other valuables.

Under the city’s laws, an applicant must pass background checks and training requirements, and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier makes final licensing decisions.

 Firearms also cannot be carried in the District in schools, hospitals, government buildings, public transportation vehicles, establishments that serve alcohol, stadiums or arenas, or within 1,000 feet of a dignitary under police protection.