Proposed law in DC would require residents to show why they need concealed handgun permits

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WASHINGTON — Residents of the nation's capital will be able to get licenses to carry concealed handguns outside the home, but only after they provide a specific reason for needing one, officials said Wednesday.

Mayor Vincent Gray and other city officials said they plan to propose legislation that would make the District of Columbia similar to a half-dozen states, including Maryland, where residents can be denied a concealed-carry permit if they can't show a need for one. The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Maryland's law last year.

In July, a federal judge struck down the District's ban on carrying handguns outside the home. The judge put his ruling on hold to give the city time to rewrite its gun laws.

The District is seeking to let the police chief decide whether people have a reason to carry a concealed firearm, and officials said living in a high-crime neighborhood would not be a sufficient reason to obtain a permit. People who've received death threats or have been the victims of domestic violence are among those who could be granted permits.

"It has to be personalized. It has to be something specific," D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan said.

Alan Gura, an attorney for plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the proposal did not comply with the judge's order.

"In America, the police don't determine what rights we have good reason to enjoy," Gura said. "You don't need a good reason to speak, to worship, to vote or to carry a gun for self-defense."

In 2008, the Supreme Court struck down the city's 32-year-old ban on handguns. Since then, the District has required gun owners to register their firearms every three years, complete a safety course and be fingerprinted and photographed, among other requirements.

The concealed-carry requirements, which the D.C. Council will vote on next week, would be even more restrictive. Those seeking a concealed-carry permit would have to complete a "more extensive" safety course than what's required for gun owners. Non-residents would also be able to get licenses if they meet the same standards. Open carrying of firearms would remain illegal under the proposal.

Gray, a Democrat and a member of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, made clear that he was establishing the concealed-carry program reluctantly, citing last year's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard and the street violence in Chicago as examples of the need for stronger gun laws.

"I happen to be one that really does not support having people walking around with guns, concealed or otherwise," Gray said.

Permit holders would also be barred from carrying guns in locations including government buildings, public transportation, bars and restaurants, stadiums and places where public officials need to be protected.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court struck down California's requirement that residents must show they faced a "clear and present danger" to receive a gun permit, although the ruling is on hold pending an appeal. Gura said the judge in the District's case followed the logic of that ruling, which found that residents only need to show a desire for self-defense.

The other states where residents must show a reason to get a permit are Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.


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