This week, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in two closely-watched cases challenging Washington D.C.’s strict concealed carry laws, Wrenn et al. v. District of Columbia et al., and Grace et al. v. District of Columbia et al. Both cases involve challenges to the District of Columbia’s “may-issue” concealed carry law found at D.C. Code § 22-4506(a), which requires applicants to show a “good” or “proper” reason prior to obtaining a concealed carry permit. In order to establish a “good” or “proper” reason, the applicant must allege “serious threats of death or threats of bodily harm.” Two different district court judges came to opposite conclusions in Wrenn and Grace, and the Court of Appeals then ordered that the two cases be argued together. At issue on appeal is: (1) whether the right to carry a firearm outside of the home is protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and whether the protections differ between urban and rural areas; and (2) whether the District of Columbia’s “may-issue” licensing scheme that leaves the issuance of a concealed carry permit to the discretion of District of Columbia Chief of Police violates that constitutionally protected right. At oral argument before the three-judge panel, Judges Thomas B. Griffith and Stephen F. Williams both questioned the District’s attorney concerning whether carrying a firearm outside of the home was an inherent right and whether the current licensing scheme amounted to an “outright ban” on carrying handguns outside of the home. The third judge, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, was silent during oral argument, but is expected to rule in the District of Columbia’s favor in light of her ruling in 2007 to uphold the District of Columbia’s former prohibition on handguns. The right to carry a firearm outside of the home was not directly addressed by the Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald and circuit courts have split on the issue.
Copies of the district court decisions in Wrenn and Grace can be found here and here.