District of Columbia officials said Thursday they won't appeal a court ruling striking down a portion of the city's gun laws, a decision that means it will soon be easier for gun owners to get concealed carry permits in the nation's capital.
A divided three-judge federal appeals court panel ruled in July that a portion of the city's gun regulations infringed on residents' Second Amendment rights. That portion required people to show "good reason to fear injury" or another "proper reason" to carry a handgun. Reasons might include a personal threat, or a job that requires a person to carry or protect cash or valuables. That stringent requirement meant only about 120 people currently have a permit to carry a concealed handgun in the city.
Officials said they continue to believe in the requirement but made a calculated decision not to appeal.
"I continue to believe the District's 'good reason' requirement is a common-sense, and constitutional, gun regulation. However, we must reckon with the fact that an adverse decision by the Supreme Court could have wide-ranging negative effects not just on District residents, but on the country as a whole," District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine said in a statement.
Racine said if the city were to appeal to the Supreme Court and lose, it would affect similar gun regulations elsewhere including in Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Racine acknowledged at a news conference he had received several phone calls from elected and unelected officials in other jurisdictions worried about the effect of a Supreme Court ruling against the city. But Racine and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said the decision that was made was ultimately what was in the city's best interest.
"What is important to know is that while the 'good reason' part of our concealed carry law was invalidated by the courts, all of the rest of the requirements related to carrying a concealed weapon are in place, and so opening up the case and taking the chance at the Supreme Court actually puts us and the remainder of our concealed carry law also in jeopardy," Bowser said.
In order to get a concealed carry permit in the city a resident needs to have completed a firearms safety and training course and can't have been convicted of a felony, among other requirements. Concealed carry permits have to be renewed every two years and guns must also be registered with the city.
The city's police chief, Peter Newsham, declined Thursday to speculate about how many people would apply for a concealed carry permit now that the "good reason" provision has been struck down. A total of 425 people previously denied concealed carry permits as a result of the "good reason" requirement will have to submit an updated application.
The city's "good reason" requirement had remained in effect while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit considered whether to re-hear the case as a full court. The appeals court announced last week it would not, and the city then had to decide whether it would appeal to the Supreme Court. The city says the appeals court will soon issue what is called a "mandate" that will mean the city can no longer enforce the "good reason" requirement.