Washington, D.C., Forced to Legalize Concealed Carry — What Does That Mean for Virginians?
A quick look into how Virginia residents might be allowed to carry firearms in Washington, D.C., now that the District has accepted that their strict concealed carry laws are unconstitutional.
This year, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a stunning decision on the Wrenn v. D.C. and Grace v. D.C. cases, overturning Washington, D.C.’s concealed carry laws and ordering the city’s “good cause” provision to be removed entirely.
After the full Circuit Court of Appeals refused to re-hear the case, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced that he would not be appealing to the Supreme Court. In his opinion, a defeat at the Supreme Court would put restrictive gun laws across the country in jeopardy. Therefore, the Washington, D.C., city government has decided to accept the Circuit Court’s ruling and change their concealed carry gun law to comply with it.
Virginians, especially those who live in Northern Virginia, have long had to go out of their way to comply with the gun laws in both D.C. and Maryland. Even if a Virginia resident is trained and licensed to carry a concealed firearm, that permit has never been honored by Washington, D.C., or Maryland.
That could change now that Washington, D.C., is being forced to change its gun laws.
There are three ways that these court decisions can directly affect Virginians — two in the short term and one in the long term.
Back in 2014, District Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. overturned Washington, D.C.’s ban on both open and concealed carry. He determined that it was unconstitutional for the nation’s capital to outlaw all means of bearing arms in public for self-defense. In his initial ruling, the opinion immediately granted reciprocity to any law-abiding American with a valid concealed carry permit. What that meant is that for a few days following this ruling, Virginians who were licensed to carry firearms were allowed to do so. That was ultimately ended when the judge issued a stay on his ruling.
While that reciprocity is no longer in effect, look to see how Washington, D.C., crafts its new concealed carry laws. Under the law, all Washington, D.C., statutes need to be approved by the United States Congress before they can take effect. With Republicans controlling a majority of seats in both houses, it is unlikely that a restrictive concealed carry law would be approved by the Congress.
In the meantime, however, the D.C. City Council can pass what is known as “emergency legislation” that can go into effect for 90 days without needing congressional approval. So look to see what kind of emergency legislation comes out of the City Council in the coming weeks. Either their emergency statute will individually grant reciprocity to states like Virginia, or it will outlaw out-of-state concealed carriers, which would signal a bigger fight to come when a permanent bill comes before the Congress.
Being the nation’s capital and having so many people who commute into the city for work, it is hard to imagine the District of Columbia City Council passing a new concealed carry bill that does not allow non-residents to apply. Now that the city’s most restrictive regulations have been thrown out, theoretically anyone who otherwise qualifies and meets the other permit requirements will have to be approved. Under the law as currently written, it is technically possible for a non-resident to obtain a Washington, D.C., concealed weapons permit.
While this law will have to be rewritten and passed, it is currently possible for someone someone living outside the District of Columbia to obtain a concealed weapon permit as long as they hold a valid permit issued by any other state and meet all the registration and licensing requirements currently found within D.C. law.
Obtaining a non-resident permit to carry a firearm in D.C. is the most-likely way that Virginians will be able to bear arms in the nation’s capital, especially since it is already allowed under current law.
The third way that this recent decision can affect Virginians is through precedent. While Attorney General Racine chose not to appeal this case to the Supreme Court, the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision still creates an important precedent that will no doubt come into play the next time a similar case reaches the Supreme Court. While there is no guarantee the Supreme Court would rule this way, it is possible that a broad ruling could end up creating nationwide reciprocity for all licensed concealed carriers.
If the Supreme Court agrees with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that the 2nd Amendment includes an individual right to carry a handgun in public, it is hard to imagine a ruling that allows Washington, D.C., to deny non-residents who are licensed to carry firearms.
While this is definitely a long-term possibility, the imposition of nationwide concealed carry reciprocity would also allow Virginians to carry their licensed firearms in states like Maryland and South Carolina, where they currently are not allowed to carry.
While the future is uncertain, Washington, D.C., will now no longer be allowed to arbitrarily reject people who apply for a license to carry a firearm. That means that any law-abiding American of sound mind who passes the District’s classes and tests will have to be given a license to carry a firearm in D.C.
While it is certainly possible that will be tailored to not include Virginians, it is more likely than not that by this time next year, Virginia residents will be allowed to legally carry firearms in the nation’s capital.