Of­fi­cials de­fend D.C. gun laws, seek tougher rules

City re­sponds to rul­ing strik­ing ‘good rea­son’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

D.C. of­fi­cials said Wednesday that they are look­ing at ways to ex­pand the city’s strict gun laws, hop­ing to re­cap­ture some of the ground lost after a fed­eral ap­peals court struck down the city’s re­stric­tions on is­su­ing con­cealed-carry per­mits.

The of­fi­cials also de­fended the city’s gun-free zones, say­ing there are a num­ber of ar­eas where they don’t want any­one car­ry­ing a firearm, and in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, with so many high-pro­file gov­ern­ment sites, there will be more zones than many other cities.

No timetable has been set for new re­stric­tions, but City Coun­cil Chair­man Phil Men­del­son and Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee Chair­man Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat, said in sep­a­rate in­ter­views that they are look­ing to stiffen the list of re­quire­ments for gun own­ers to be able to ob­tain per­mits in the city.

“We be­lieve more guns on city streets makes us less safe,” Mr. Allen said.

The de­bate comes after the city de­cided last week not to ap­peal a fed­eral cir­cuit court rul­ing strik­ing down the “good rea­son” re­quire­ment that se­verely lim­ited who was able to ob­tain a

con­cealed-carry per­mit.

Now, as they ex­pect an in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing per­mits to carry, city of­fi­cials are look­ing to tighten the screen.

“The court felt that our law with a ‘good rea­son’ pro­vi­sion was too lim­it­ing, which means that more peo­ple will get a li­cense to carry, which means that we should take an­other look, after a cou­ple years since we adopted the cur­rent law, to see if it cov­ers all of the is­sues with re­gard to ten­dency to­ward vi­o­lence, men­tal health is­sues and other clearly disqualifying fac­tors,” Mr. Men­del­son said.

The city has two sec­tions of law that cre­ate gun-free zones. The more ex­pan­sive sec­tion cre­ates a 1,000-foot no-gun buf­fer around schools, day care cen­ters, parks, swim­ming pools and other pub­lic gath­er­ing spa­ces. The law says those car­ry­ing weapons il­le­gally in those zones can have their penal­ties dou­bled.

Sec­ond Amend­ment sup­port­ers and at least one le­gal an­a­lyst said the law is “baf­flingly drafted” and they think per­mit hold­ers could run afoul of it. John R. Lott Jr., pres­i­dent of the Crime Preven­tion Re­search Cen­ter, said he has never seen such an ex­pan­sive law and that it could make it “im­pos­si­ble for some­body to legally carry a gun.”

But Mr. Men­del­son said the law is clear and ap­plies only to those car­ry­ing il­le­gally in those buf­fer zones — not to law­fully per­mit­ted weapons own­ers.

“It’s a penalty sec­tion — that’s all it is. It’s just an en­hanced penalty,” the chair­man said.

The other sec­tion of law, which in­cludes an ab­so­lute pro­hi­bi­tion, is more nar­rowly drawn. It out­laws pos­ses­sion in build­ings as­so­ci­ated with city gov­ern­ment, pub­lic and pri­vate schools and col­leges, med­i­cal of­fices, pub­lic trans­porta­tion, places where al­co­hol is served, sports are­nas, the National Mall, ar­eas around the White House and the Naval Ob­ser­va­tory, and at pub­lic gath­er­ings or any­where else the po­lice chief of­fi­cially puts off lim­its.

That sec­tion doesn’t have a 1,000-foot buf­fer zone, cut­ting down on col­lat­eral re­stric­tions.

Mr. Men­del­son said the city struck a care­ful bal­ance.

He said when the coun­cil was draft­ing gun leg­is­la­tion sev­eral years back, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment asked for ex­pan­sive no-carry zones around ma­jor gov­ern­ment sites. One of those would have pro­hib­ited weapons from 14th Street to 20th Street and from I or K Street down to the National Mall.

In­stead, the city drew a smaller box from 15th to 17th streets and from Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue to H Street, pre­cisely be­cause of wor­ries about going too far.

Mr. Men­del­son said he ex­pects de­bate about ex­pand­ing those no-gun zones but doesn’t think the coun­cil will take that step once folks re­al­ize how much the cur­rent law al­ready cov­ers.

Mr. Men­del­son and Mr. Allen said city res­i­dents should know the lim­its of the court’s rul­ing, which, while it struck down the good-rea­son re­quire­ment, left the rest of the strict laws in place.

In the three years the good-cause rule was in ef­fect, the city re­ceived 668 ap­pli­ca­tions for con­cealed-carry per­mits and made de­ci­sions on 574 of them. Of those, 130 were ap­proved and 123 were still ac­tive.

An­other 444 ap­pli­ca­tions were de­nied — 425 of them be­cause of the good-rea­son clause.

They will be in­vited to apply again and will have to re­sub­mit their pa­per­work but won’t be charged an­other fee.

Ap­pli­ca­tions will still have to clear a num­ber of hur­dles. Those who have been con­victed of a felony or a vi­o­lent mis­de­meanor, those un­der in­dict­ment for a vi­o­lent crime and those with at least two DUI vi­o­la­tions are pro­hib­ited, as are the men­tally un­sta­ble and the blind.

Po­lice will still re­quire a firearms safety course and range train­ing, and ap­pli­cants will still have to un­dergo in-per­son in­ter­views with po­lice.

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