Wrenn v. District of Columbia: Joining with the Brady Center to Defend the District’s Concealed Carry Permitting System

Overlooking-DC

Case Information: Wrenn v. District of Columbia, No. 15-7057 (D.C. Cir. Brief Filed Sept. 3, 2015)

At Issue: This cases challenges the constitutionality of the District’s regulations regarding the issuance of concealed carry permits. Similar to California law, the District requires that a CCW applicant show a specific need for a permit and a general self-defense interest is not enough to meet this burden. These “may-issue” systems are in place in several states across the country and are associated with a reduction in crime, including aggravated assault. However, the district court found that these laws violate the Second Amendment and the case is now on appeal with the D.C. Circuit.

Our Amicus Brief: The Law Center joined an amicus brief coordinated by the Brady Center that defends the constitutionality of the District’s concealed carry regime and argues that this regime does not violate the Second Amendment. The brief also focuses on the relevant evidence provided by social science research and the perspective of law enforcement with respect to the regulation of concealed carry in public places. The brief argues that there is a strong policy justification for a concealed carry permitting regime that requires applicants to demonstrate an elevated level of need before a permit may be issued.

Keeping California on the Leading Edge of Smart Gun Laws

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The Law Center is committed to continuing to shape California’s common-sense approach to responsible gun ownership and safety. Our attorneys are busy: tracking laws, testifying at public safety hearings, and working alongside lawmakers to pass legislation that will keep the Golden State a model for the rest of the nation when it comes to enacting smart gun laws that save lives.

California’s 2015 legislative session has now concluded, and we are proud that the Governor signed SB 707 (“gun-free school zone”) to eliminate a dangerous loophole in California’s Gun-Free School Zone Act by prohibiting individuals licensed to carry concealed handguns from carrying concealed, loaded weapons onto school grounds without the written permission of school officials. This legislation will help ensure that school administrators have the discretion they need to provide students with a safe and secure learning environment.

To learn more about all of the firearm-related bills introduced in the California State Legislature this year, check out our comprehensive 2015 California Legislative Summary below.

For more info on legislative trends that are currently developing nationwide, read our 2015 State Gun Law Trendwatch.

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No Permit, Big Problem

 

One of the gun lobby’s priorities in 2015 is pushing dangerous legislation to allow people to carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without a permit. Currently, only four states lack a permit requirement for concealed carry, but in the first three months of 2015, 20 states have introduced bills to remove this lifesaving public safety measure.

This is a potentially deadly trend. “No permit” concealed carry will:

  • Embolden felons and other prohibited people to carry concealed weapons in public.
  • Reduce law enforcement’s ability to identify those prohibited people.
  • Increase the risk of intentional and accidental shootings in public places.
  • Increase gun trafficking.

Without a permit requirement, it becomes more difficult for law enforcement to confirm that people carrying loaded, hidden weapons in public are law abiding. Felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill are forbidden from possessing firearms under federal law, but with “no permit” the police lose an avenue to check that people are carrying guns legally, which in turn emboldens dangerous people to carry guns in public with little risk of being caught, jeopardizing the safety of police officers and the public.

The application process for a concealed carry permit—which includes mandatory firearm safety training in several states—naturally limits the number of people applying to carry guns in public. Without these permits, more people will carry concealed weapons, increasing the risk that everyday disagreements will escalate into shootouts, especially in places where disputes frequently occur—in bars, at sporting events, and in traffic. Experts have agreed, again and again, that more guns in public leads to more gun injuries and deaths—not fewer.

Weak concealed carry laws are also correlated to an increase in gun trafficking. Mayors Against Illegal Guns (now Everytown for Gun Safety) found that states with weak permitting laws are the source of crime guns recovered in other states at more than twice the rate of states with strong permitting laws.

Last week, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin courageously vetoed a no permit bill after bipartisan polling found that 83 percent of voters and 81 percent of gun owners in that state support requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon. And West Virginians echo national sentiment—88 percent of likely 2016 voters oppose laws allowing people to carry hidden, loaded weapons without a permit.

These polling figures show that both the gun lobby and the politicians who play to them are out of touch with what Americans want—and concealed carry permits are part of that package. The good news is that in spite of the gun lobby’s efforts, we’ve seen an unprecedented momentum for smart gun laws. Since Newtown, 99 new smart gun laws have been passed and the gun lobby has lost court case after court case, including just this month in Fyock v. Sunnyvale and Pena v Lindley. The tide is turning.

A New Law in Idaho Creates the Potential for Openly Carried Weapons on Campus and in Dorms

(Photo: AP/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)

(Photo: AP/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson)

A bill that prohibits state colleges and universities from regulating firearms on their campuses was signed by the governor of Idaho yesterday. The governor approved the law despite strong opposition from the Idaho Board of Education, Chief of Police, and the presidents of every Idaho public university, college, and community college. No public colleges or universities in Idaho currently allow guns on their campuses.

Although the law still allows public colleges and universities to regulate guns on campus in some respects, Idaho Senate Bill 1254 prohibits them from banning the carrying of firearms by individuals with an enhanced concealed carry permit.  An individual need only obtain an additional eight hours of firearms safety training and fire 98 live rounds to qualify for this enhanced permit. However, because of a incredibly dangerous loophole,  these permit holders will be able to carry their firearms openly on campus, which makes Idaho the first state in the country to allow people to openly carry weapons on campus. 

People with enhanced permits will still be restricted from carrying a concealed firearm within a student dormitory, residence hall, or public entertainment facility, but this is the only restriction the law places on enhanced permit holders. The law does not prevent enhanced permit holders from carrying their firearms openly in the same places, or anywhere else on campus.

Whether Carried Openly or Concealed, Guns on Campus Increase the Risk of Violence. Allowing guns on campuses has been shown to create a greater risk for both homicide and suicide. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities reports that college-age students experience some of the highest rates of serious mental illness. A Journal of American College Health study demonstrated that between 9% and 11% of college students seriously considered suicide in the previous school year and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 1,100 college students commit suicide each year. Access to guns makes suicide attempts more likely to be fatal– 85% of gun suicide attempts result in death—as illustrated by data from the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition to the risks of suicide, a 2002 study from the Journal of American College Health found that students who owned guns were more likely than non-gun-owning students to binge drink and then engage in risky activities “such as driving when under the influence of alcohol, vandalizing property, and having unprotected intercourse.”

Evidence suggests that permissive concealed gun carrying generally will increase crime. This fact belies any need for students, faculty, and visitors to carry guns on campus for self-defense or any other reason. Continue reading

Law Center and Attorney General Harris Defend California Law in Pivotal Ninth Circuit Concealed Weapon Case

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A radical Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision earlier this month put one of California’s key laws in jeopardy. In that case, two conservative judges issued a decision that could potentially undermine a decades old law allowing law enforcement to have discretion over who is allowed to carry a hidden, loaded gun in public. Today, California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a request that the Ninth Circuit reconsider the case in front of an en banc panel of judges.

The law at issue here allows law enforcement to issue a permit to carry a hidden, loaded gun in public if the applicant can demonstrate “good cause” for receiving a permit. This type of system is commonly called a “may issue” permitting system and is not uncommon in other states across the country. In Peruta v. County of San Diegotwo judges on a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit decided that California’s good cause requirement must be interpreted to allow anyone who claims a general desire for personal self-defense in public to be issued a permit, contrary to three other circuits’ decisions on this issue.

Given that this decision guts a critical piece of California law regarding guns in public, it is no surprise that the Attorney General has decided to get involved in the case and request an en banc rehearing. Today, the Law Center—which also filed an amicus brief in front of the original three judge panel—filed an amicus brief that supports the Attorney General’s request. Our brief argues that the Peruta decision is a dramatic departure from other courts’ analysis of this issue. In fact, cases challenging similar “may issue” systems in New York, Maryland, and New Jersey have been rejected by three different federal appellate courts.

The briefs filed by the Law Center, Attorney General Harris, and other organizations send a clear message to the Ninth Circuit to stop this radical decision by two judges which could overturn decades of California law that helps law enforcement prevent gun violence. This unprecedented ruling starkly departs from other courts’ interpretations of the Second Amendment by failing to consider the public safety benefits of granting law enforcement discretion in deciding who should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon and by failing to recognize the well-established history of regulating guns in public.  Courts that have taken those considerations into account have all upheld these critical laws. Continue reading

Extreme New Bill in Georgia Aimed at Allowing More Guns in Bars and Other Public Spaces

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Right now, an outrageous bill is making its way through the Georgia Legislature. House Bill 875 is a particularly extreme example of the gun lobby’s strategy to broaden the laws around guns in public by dramatically expanding the locations where concealed weapons are permitted. House Bill 875 would, among other things, allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry firearms in bars, churches and other houses of worship, parts of airports and courthouses, and make it easier to carry a gun on college and university campuses.

During the floor debate in the House, Republican Representative Chuck Sims said that, as a funeral director, he deals with the tragic aftermath of gun violence. “Guns don’t belong in church, and a gun doesn’t belong in a bar. It just doesn’t,” he said.

He’s not the only Georgian to speak out against the expansion of concealed weapons into public spaces. Permissive concealed carry laws violate the shared expectation that public places will be safe environments free from guns and gun violence.1 According to a recent poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in January, 78% of Georgians do not support allowing firearms on college campuses and 72% oppose allowing guns in bars. Despite this clear message from the public, House Bill 875 passed the House of Representatives this week and is now headed to the Senate.

House Bill 875 would also weaken Georgia’s already lax requirements for obtaining a concealed weapon permit. For example, if the bill were enacted, a person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor for pointing a gun at another person could obtain a concealed carry permit.

The reality is that concealed handgun holders, who possess, at most, a very limited amount of firearms training, create new risks of intentional or accidental shootings. Members of the public who carry guns risk escalating everyday disagreements into public shootouts, especially in places where disputes frequently occur—in bars, at sporting events, or in traffic. A study from the Violence Policy Center on Texas’ permissive concealed carry law found that license holders were arrested for weapons-related crimes at a rate 81% higher than that of the state’s general population age 21 and older.

In addition to the expansion of guns in public, House Bill 875 would also allow individuals to sue local governments for enacting gun violence prevention laws. The local governments could be required to pay litigation expenses, attorneys fees, and damages in certain cases. These are only some of the many irresponsible provisions contained in the bill which the NRA touts as the “most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent state history.”

Want to know more? Read our summary of concealed weapons permitting laws nationwide or check out other recent examples of extreme gun laws and policies in America on our Extremism in Action page.

Notes
  1. For more about this issue, see the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s publications Guns in Public Places: The Increasing Threat of Hidden Guns in America, and America Caught in the Crossfire: How Concealed Carry Laws Threaten Public Safety. The Law Center has also published a model law regulating the carrying of firearms in public places.

The California Model: Twenty Years of Putting Safety First

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The Law Center’s latest publication, The California Model: Twenty Years of Putting Safety First, examines the history of success in enacting smart gun laws in California and how those laws have contributed to a significant drop in gun death rates in the state.

As the publication describes, gun violence is not a problem without solutions. We know what works,
we’ve seen the difference it has made in California, and we are already seeing the same success in states around the country.

Download a PDF Copy of The California Model

Two Mass Shootings that Changed California

In 1989, a catastrophic event changed the perception of gun violence in California. A gunman took an assault rifle to Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, where he killed five children and wounded 29 others as well as one teacher.

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In the early 1990s the toll of gun violence in California rose to unprecedented levels – at one point 15% higher than the national average.1

The parallels between the Stockton shooting and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut are startling. As one news report observed, “Except for the fatal scale of the Connecticut shooting[,] the assault at Cleveland Elementary School here featured near-identical and tragic themes: young victims, a troubled gunman and a military-style rifle.”2

The Stockton shooting shocked California and the nation, igniting calls for change.  Then, as now, change was not quick to come from Congress. Instead, it was California’s legislature that responded to the demand for action, adopting the first assault weapons ban in the country that same year.

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Notes
  1. U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-Based Injury Statistics Query & Reporting System (WISQARS), 1981-1998 Fatal Injury Report, 1981-1998, http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate9.html (accessed on July 11, 2013).
  2. Stockton school massacre: A tragically familiar pattern, USA Today (Apr. 1, 2013), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/01/stockton-massacre-tragically-familiar-pattern-repeats/2043297/.

Amicus Briefs: Bringing Our Expertise to the Courts

Over the past four years, our nation’s courts have become a major battleground in the debate about gun violence in our communities. Right now, people who want to carry loaded firearms on public streets are forcing judges across the country to question the scope of the Second Amendment. But where should judges turn for guidance in evaluating these claims? The Supreme Court’s landmark Heller decision in 2008 effectively upended the legal understanding of the Second Amendment that had existed for almost eighty years. When it comes to gun litigation, courts are now having to evaluate how to keep our communities safe with little Second Amendment case law to guide them.

The Law Center is helping to fill that void through amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in significant Second Amendment cases across the country. Because we are the only organization in the country that tracks Second Amendment litigation, national, state, and local firearms laws, and pending firearms legislation nationwide, we have unique expertise that can help courts understand the critical importance of smart laws to prevent gun violence. Through amicus briefs, we can present that expertise to courts shaping the meaning of the Second Amendment.

Amicus briefs enable us to get involved in precedent-setting cases that have nationwide significance, since numerous challenges to similar gun laws are currently pending before courts across the country. We recently filed an amicus brief in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Hightower v. Boston, in which we argued that a Massachusetts law requiring a license to carry a concealed weapon in public does not violate the Second Amendment. When the court issued its decision upholding the law on August 30th, it became the first federal appellate court in the nation to issue a decision on a Second Amendment challenge to a concealed carry law. Six other federal appellate courts are currently facing similar challenges.  Continue reading

Law Center Files Briefs in Significant Second Amendment Cases

As courts across the country hear Second Amendment challenges against important state gun laws, the Law Center is weighing in, turning our legal expertise into a series of amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs filed in several significant cases.

Three of these cases — Moore v. Madigan and Shepard v. Madigan in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and People v. Aguilar in the Illinois Supreme Court — involve Second Amendment challenges to Illinois statutes that prohibit the carrying of firearms (either openly or concealed) in public places. Illinois is the only state the continues to prohibit both open and concealed carry. In all three cases, the Law Center briefs argue that: 1) carrying firearms outside the home for self-defense is not within the scope of the Second Amendment; and 2) even if possessing firearms in public is considered within the scope of Second Amendment protection, Illinois’ ban on carrying guns in public is constitutional.

We made similar arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Hightower v. City of Boston. The Hightower case involves a Second Amendment challenge to Massachusetts’ firearm licensing law, which enables law enforcement to deny an application to carry a concealed weapon if the applicant fails to demonstrate he or she is a person suitable to own or possess such firearms. Our Hightower brief argues that the Second Amendment does not apply, and that even if it did, the “suitable person” standard easily survives scrutiny.

Success Story: Governors Say “No” to Extreme Gun Lobby Bills in Three States

Photo by Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images

On April 14, 2012, Arizona Governor Janice Brewer vetoed a bill, for the second year in a row, that would have weakened restrictions on carrying a loaded firearm in public buildings and on public property.  Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a bill on March 5, 2012 that would have created reciprocity with concealed weapons permits from all other states and expanded current stand your ground provisions outside of the home. In South Dakota on March 19, 2012, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill that would have allowed the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit.

Want to see more success stories? You can find them here.