The U.S. District Court in Wrenn v. Linear, issued on May 18, 2015, granted the plaintiff’s preliminary injunction to strike the District’s “good reason/proper reason” statutory requirement before issuing license to carry handguns.

In response to the District Court’s decision in Palmer v. Dist. of Columbia, allowing carrying pursuant to the Second Amendment for self defense purposes an operable handgun outside the home (blogged on 9/24/2014), the District redrafted the handgun statute consistent with the decision but adding other limiting language subject of this litigation and the current ruling.

Specifically the amended language provided (D.C. Code § 22-4506(a)):

“The Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (“Chief”) may, upon the application of any person having a bona fide residence or place of business within the District of Columbia, or of a person having a bona fide residence or place of business within the United States and a license to carry a pistol concealed upon his or her person issued by the lawful authorities of any State or subdivision of the United States, issue a license to such person to carry a pistol concealed upon his or her person within the District of Columbia for not more than 2 years from the date of issue, if it appears that the applicant has good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property or has any other proper reason for carrying a pistol, and that he or she is a suitable person to be so licensed”.

With “good reason to fear injury to his or her person” defined at a minimum by “a showing of a special need for self- protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks that demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life” and “proper reason for carrying a concealed pistol” including employments that require handling of cash/valuable objects, etc.

In order to prevail on the preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs had to essentially establish likelihood of success on the merits, that is: the District’s requirement of “good reason”/”proper reason” in order to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in public for the purpose of self defense violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms or that it unreasonably denies or impinges on the right of otherwise qualified individuals to carry a handgun for self-defense.

The Court did not credit the District’s contentions that the handgun regulations is longstanding and thus long accepted and cannot be burdensome or constitutionally limiting, or that the statute as drafted has de minimis effect on their right to carry handgun according to the Second Amendment.

The Court concluded that because the District’s good reason/proper reason requirement impinges on the Second Amendment rights of those who cannot show special need for self protection distinguished from the general public – the provision is unconstitutional and thus unenforceable. The Second Amendment bestows a fundamental right to bear and carry arm for self defense purposes.

The Court also held that the District also failed to demonstrate that its “good reason”/”proper reason” requirement is not broader than necessary to achieve its substantial government interest in preventing crime or in protecting public safety. The District’s restriction in issuing license based on good/proper reason does not necessarily reduce violent crime or reduce risk to public at large. It only limits, impinges upon and burdens the general public’s right to bear and carry arm according to the Second Amendment and thus unconstitutional and unenforceable.

With this language eliminated from the statute, the District’s issuance of handgun carrying license should be less burdensome, more prevalent and more consistent with the spirit of the Second Amendment.

Categories: Criminal Defense.