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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

D.C. Sends Muddled Response to Gun Ruling

Having to scramble to respond to a Saturday ruling could cause muddled messages but one would think that after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Peruta earlier this year that the District of Columbia would have had a contingency plan in place in the event the ruling went against them.  But alas, that was not the case, and Chief of Police Cathy Lanier had to clarify her hastily prepared guidance she gave her officers over the weekend.  From Roll Call:
D.C. police have been ordered not to arrest people for carrying pistols and deadly weapons in public. Washingtonians can still face criminal charges for carrying unregistered firearms and ammunition, but the millions of people who visit the nation’s capital are exempt from those provisions under an order from Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. The chief’s guidance effectively put the District’s firearm regulations, at least for non-residents, on a par with the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the country. D.C. police got additional guidance from Lanier on Monday afternoon. She clarified that the ruling applies only to handguns, not long guns or shotguns that are still illegal, and that committing crimes with handguns remains illegal.

For non-residents, legal possession of a handgun in D.C. is based on the laws of their home jurisdiction, meaning D.C. police will be responsible for knowing and enforcing licensing and permitting restrictions from around the country. Lanier noted that additional information on gun laws in other states will be forthcoming and said that in the meantime, officers can call a 24-hour information line.

Lanier’s orders came in response to Judge Frederick Scullin Jr.’s July 26 ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia that D.C.’s complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional. In the 19-page decision, Scullin wrote that he was stopping enforcement of the law “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism.

In her follow-up guidance to officers, Lanier nodded to the confusion. “Unfortunately, this ruling has left many unanswered legal questions that are currently being reviewed by the [Office of the Attorney General],” she stated.
This guidance could be short lived as the D.C. Attorney General has filed for a stay of the ruling, sighting the Madigan case from Illinois where the 7th Circuit stayed the ruling for 180 days.  This gave Illinois time to come up with a plan to issue permits.  It is unclear if D.C. wants the stay to appeal the case or to comply with it.

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