D.C.’s firearm laws have been loosened considerably over the course of the last decade. Whereas ten years ago, a D.C. resident could not even own a handgun in his or her home, now a resident can own a handgun and carry it in most public places. Prior to 2008, D.C. had a complete ban on handguns and required an individual to have a license to carry firearms (rifles, shotguns, etc.) even inside his or her own home.
Landmark Case Regarding Rifles and Shotguns
Beginning in 2008 with D.C. v. Heller, as a matter of first impression, the Supreme Court examined an individual’s Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense. In this landmark case, the Court struck down D.C.’s long-standing ban on handguns and the requirement that rifles and shotguns be kept bound by a trigger-locking device or disassembled and unloaded. As a result, D.C. law then allowed individuals to carry handguns in their own homes, so long as the handguns were registered. Still, there wasn’t any provision allowing individuals to carry firearms outside of their homes.
Later, in 2014, Palmer v. D.C. held that the D.C. gun registration statute’s prohibition on carrying firearms outside of the home was unconstitutional. D.C. residents were then allowed to obtain a permit to carry a firearm outside of their homes if they demonstrated a “good reason” for self-defense. “Good reason” meant that the individual had a “special need” to carry a firearm that was distinct from the rest of the community. This “good reason” could include having a job that required an employee to transport valuable items or large amounts of cash. Living in a neighborhood with a high crime rate was not a sufficient basis to constitute a “special need” for self-defense under the law. Thus, many D.C. residents felt as though the permit requirements were far too restrictive to the point that it was nearly impossible to obtain a license to carry.
Successful Preliminary Injunction Barring “Good Reason” Requirement
In 2016, Brian Wrenn and the Second Amendment Foundation sought a preliminary injunction barring the enforcement of D.C.’s “good reason” requirement, and failed. Following this case, Matthew Grace and the Pink Pistols, an LGBT group that fights for the Second Amendment rights of sexual minorities, sought the same preliminary injunction and succeeded.
In July of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia combined the appeals from both of these cases and eventually ruled in Wrenn v. D.C. that the “special need” ordinance was unconstitutional. The court’s reasoning was similar to that of the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Heller. In Heller, the Court determined that a total ban on handguns amounted to a categorical deprivation of Second Amendment rights, and that citizens must be allowed to defend themselves against threats faced by the general community. Following this, the Wrenn court held that the Second Amendment must be read to cover a class of citizens with “common levels of competence and responsibility.” In other words, since the general public is entitled to self-defense, and individuals face, on average, the same degree of danger as one another, these individuals must be permitted the same means to defend themselves (i.e. by carrying a handgun). In her dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson argued that the Second Amendment should not be extended outside of the confines of the home.
Contact An Experienced Professional
If you are charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, you could face serious penalties. It is important to understand this recent change in the law. If you are facing such charges, contact the experienced attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel to help you handle your case.