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Will DC court’s decision on concealed guns be the tipping point?

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As of July 3, there were just 124 concealed handgun permit holders in Washington, D.C.

But, after a two-to-one federal Circuit court decision on Tuesday morning striking down D.C. ’s current concealed handgun law, the district has a chance to become like the 42 states with right-to-carry laws.

If it were on par with those states, D.C. would have about 48,000 permits. Right now, poor people in particular have no real hope of being able to get a permit in D.C.

Over 16.3 million Americans currently have concealed handgun permits. All fifty states issue permits, but eight of them are very restrictive, like D.C. In the 42 right-to-carry states, an average of 8 percent of adults have permits.

{mosads}D.C. ’s virtual ban on concealed handguns was in the spotlight after the recent shooting in Alexandria, Va., where members of Congress and several congressional aides were left defenseless because of D.C. ’s ban on carry by non-residents.


Trapped by a 10- to 15-foot fence with only one exit, it is a miracle that only five people were wounded at the Republican baseball practice. If Rep. Steve Scalise (D-La.) hadn’t attended the practice with his armed security detail, attacker James Hodgkinson would have been shooting Congressmen and Senators like fish in a barrel.

Next time we may not be so lucky, since only members of congressional leadership have security details.

At least four of the Congressmen who were shot at had concealed handgun permits from their home states. They are Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), and Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.). One aide also had a permit.

However, since it was illegal for them to carry in D.C. , and would be returning to the Capitol after practice, they could not legally have brought their guns.

Brooks and Loudermilk’s aide both believe that they could have quickly ended the attack.

The aide, who asked for anonymity, has gone through active shooter training and was just 15 to 20 yards away from the shooter. He believes that, from his vantage point behind a car, he could have shot Hodgkinson “probably 4 minutes” before Capitol police officer David Bailey was wounded.

Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson’s dissent in the case was concerned with the “special” nature of D.C. She described it as “a city full of high-level government officials, diplomats, monuments, parades, protests and demonstrations and, perhaps most pertinent, countless government buildings where citizens are almost universally prohibited from possessing firearms.”

But a ban isn’t going to stop terrorists or criminals from bringing guns into D.C. Out of all mass public shootings in the US since 1950 over 98 percent of attacks occurred in places where general citizens were banned from carrying guns. Gun-free zones actually encourage these attacks, because killers seek out defenseless victims.

Henderson’s dissent is also surprisingly poorly informed about the research on concealed handgun laws.

For example, she misstates the findings of a 2004 National Research Council report on concealed handguns, and ignores the overwhelming majority of academic research that shows that these laws reduce violent crime.

In fact out of all the research by criminologists, economists and law professors, no one has found any evidence that right-to-carry laws increase murder, rape or robbery.

The NRC report actually reached no conclusions about the impact on crime of any of the over one hundred prevention programs or laws that they evaluated.

That isn’t unusual, since virtually all National Research Council reports reach no conclusion other than that more government funding is needed for further research.

In fact, the NRC report found more support for right-to-carry laws than for any other type of policy. James Q. Wilson, considered by many to be the pre-eminent criminologist of his day and a member of the panel, dissented from the non-conclusion and pointed out that all of the committee’s own estimates showed that right-to-carry laws reduced murder rates.

Dissents are extremely rare, with Wilson’s being only the second one in the previous 15 years.

But proponents of concealed carry shouldn’t celebrate Tuesday’s federal Circuit court decision too soon. Given that Democrats dominate the D.C. Circuit Court, D.C. will likely ask for an en banc review by the entire Circuit and they will probably prevail as Democrat federal judges consistently vote against allowing people to carry guns.

The question is whether the Supreme Court would then hear an appeal, and so far the court has been consistently turning down such appeals.

Still Tuesday’s decision points out how out of sync some laws are with past Supreme Court precedence, and it has the possibility to make waves well outside the nation’s capitol.

If the case makes it to the Supreme Court, it will upend similarly restrictive laws in California and New York.

John Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author more recently of “The War on Guns” (Regnery, 2016).

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.


Tags Concealed carry District of Columbia v. Heller Gun rights Guns Mo Brooks open carry Steve Scalise

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