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Wrenn v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 7, 2016

BRIAN WRENN, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

In this case, Plaintiffs Brian Wrenn, Joshua Akery, Tyler Whidby, and the Second Amendment Foundation, Inc., challenge several provisions of the District of Columbia’s licensing scheme for carrying handguns in public, including the permissive nature of the scheme and the “good reason/other proper reason” requirement for obtaining a concealed carry handgun license. Plaintiffs claim that the challenged requirements violate their rights under the Second Amendment to the Constitution to “keep and bear Arms.” Before the Court is Plaintiffs’ [6] Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Plaintiffs ask the Court to enter an order enjoining Defendants District of Columbia and Cathy Lanier, Chief of Police of the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department, from enforcing the “good reason/other proper reason” requirement against the individual Plaintiffs and against the members of the Second Amendment Foundation and from denying a concealed carry license to anyone who satisfies the applicable statutory criteria for such licenses, such as those pertaining to the suitability of the license holder, as explained in further depth below.

Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record for purposes of this motion, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs’ [6] Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The Court concludes that, even assuming without deciding for the purposes of this motion alone that the Second Amendment includes a right to carry arms publicly in the District of Columbia, [2]Plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing a likelihood of success on the merits. With respect to the other equitable factors the Court must consider in evaluating a motion for a preliminary injunction, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have satisfied the irreparable harm factor in light of their allegation of a constitutional violation, but that Plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that the equities tip in their favor or that the issuance of an injunction would be in the public interest. Upon assessing these four factors taken together, the Court determines that Plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that a preliminary injunction is warranted.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court provides a brief review of the background necessary to resolve the pending motion for a preliminary injunction. Pursuant to District of Columbia law, “[n]o person shall carry within the District of Columbia either openly or concealed on or about their person, a pistol, without a license issued pursuant to District of Columbia law, or any deadly or dangerous weapon.”[3] D.C. Code § 22-4504(a). A “pistol” is defined as “any firearm originally designed to be fired by use of a single hand or with a barrel less than 12 inches in length.” Id. § 7-2501.01(12); see Id. § 22-4501(6) (cross-reference). The terms “pistol” and “handgun, ” therefore, are used interchangeably in this opinion. Under the following provision of the District of Columbia Code, which became effective on June 16, 2015, the Chief of Police may now issue licenses for the concealed carrying of handguns in public:

The Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (“Chief”) may, upon the application of a person having a bona fide residence or place of business within the District of Columbia, or of a person having a bona fide residence or place of business within the United States and a license to carry a pistol concealed upon his or her person issued by the lawful authorities of any State or subdivision of the United States, issue a license to such person to carry a pistol concealed upon his or her person within the District of Columbia for not more than 2 years from the date of issue, if it appears that the applicant has good reason to fear injury to his or her person or property or has any other proper reason for carrying a pistol, and that he or she is a suitable person to be so licensed.

D.C. Code § 22-4506(a) (emphasis added). It is the permissive nature of the licensing scheme and the penultimate condition to the licensing scheme-both italicized above-that are challenged in this action. For reasons of verbal economy and simplicity, the Court refers to the penultimate combined licensing condition as the “good reason/other proper reason” requirement or simply as the “good reason” requirement. District of Columbia law further instructs the Chief of Police to develop rules to implement the licensing provision. Id. § 7-2509.11. Among other categories of rules the Chief of Police is mandated to develop, the Chief of Police must “establish criteria for determining when an applicant has” satisfied the criteria stated in section 22-4506(a). With respect to the requirement that an applicant has “[d]emonstrated a good reason to fear injury to his or her person, ” those rules “shall at a minimum require a showing of a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks that demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life.” Id. § 7-2509.11(1)(A) (emphasis added). With respect to the alternative requirement that an applicant has “[d]emonstrated any other proper reason for carrying a concealed pistol, ” those rules “shall at a minimum include types of employment that require the handling of cash or other valuable objects that may be transported upon the applicant’s person.” Id. § 7-2509.11(1)(B) (emphasis added).

Pursuant to the parameters for the licensing scheme stated in the D.C. Code, Chief of Police Cathy Lanier issued the following regulations elucidating the requirement of “good reason to fear injury to person or property”:

§ 2333.1 A person shall demonstrate a good reason to fear injury to his or her person by showing a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life.
§ 2333.2 For the purposes of satisfying the specifications of § 2333.1, a person shall allege, in writing, serious threats of death or serious bodily harm, any attacks on his or her person, or any theft of property from his or her person. The person shall also allege that the threats are of a nature that the legal possession of a pistol is necessary as a reasonable precaution against the apprehended danger.
§ 2333.3 The person shall provide all evidence of contemporaneous reports to the police of such threats or attacks, and disclose whether or not the applicant has made a sworn complaint to the police or the courts of the District of Columbia concerning any threat or attack.
§ 2333.4 The fact that a person resides in or is employed in a high crime area shall not by itself establish a good reason to fear injury to person or property for the issuance of a concealed carry license.

D.C. Mun. Regs., tit. 24, § 24-2333.1-4 (2015); see 62 D.C. Reg. 9781 (July 17, 2015). The Chief of Police also promulgated the following regulation elucidating the “other proper reason” alternative criterion:

A person may allege any other proper reason that the Chief may accept for obtaining a concealed carry license which may include:

(a) Employment of a type that requires the handling of large amounts of cash or other highly valuable objects that must be transported upon the applicant’s person; or
(b) The need for a parent, son, daughter, sibling, or other adult member of the immediate family to provide protection of a family member who is physically or mentally incapacitated to a point where he or she cannot act in defense of himself or herself, and the family member who is physically or mentally incapacitated can demonstrate a good reason to fear injury to his or her person by showing a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks which demonstrate a special danger to the applicant’s life in the manner described in § 2333.

D.C. Mun. Regs., tit. 24, § 24-2334 (2015); see 62 D.C. Reg. 9781 (July 17, 2015). These requirements are further implemented through the Concealed Carry Pistol Application developed by the Metropolitan Police Department. See Pls. ’ Mot., Ex. 6; see also “Applying for a Concealed Carry Pistol License, ” Metropolitan Police Department website, available at http://mpdc.dc.gov/page/applying-concealed-carry-pistol-license (including links to application and associated instructions) (last visited March 2, 2016).

Essentially, the individual Plaintiffs-who are members of the Second Amendment Foundation-claim that they were denied concealed carry pistol licenses on the basis that they did not demonstrate “good reason to fear injury” or “other proper reason” to justify such a license. See Pls.’ Mot. at 6-9 (citing attached declarations). In addition, Plaintiffs state that other members of the Second Amendment Foundation would qualify for a concealed carry license but for the good reason/other proper reason requirement and that they have refrained from applying for concealed carry licenses because they believe that doing so would be futile in light of the applicable legal requirements. See Pls. ’ Mot., Declaration of Alan Gottlieb, ECF No. 6-11, ¶ 7.

In this case, Plaintiffs argue that three aspects of the licensing scheme violate what they claim is their Second Amendment right to carry handguns in public in the District of Columbia: (1) the permissive nature of the scheme-that the Chief of Police may issue a license rather than being required to issue a license (e.g., “shall issue”) upon an applicant’s satisfaction of the relevant statutory and regulatory criteria; (2) the good reason/other proper reason requirement; and (3) the rules promulgated to elucidate the good reason/other proper reason requirement, including those mandated by the applicable D.C. Code provisions, see D.C. Code § 7-2509.11, and those promulgated by the Chief of Police, see D.C. Mun. Reg., tit. 24, §§ 24-2333, 2334. Compl. ¶ 40. Plaintiffs claim that these requirements are unconstitutional on their face and as applied to the individual Plaintiffs and to other members of the Second Amendment Foundation that would qualify for a concealed carry license were it not for the good reason/other proper reason requirement. Id.

Through Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, they ask the Court to enter the following two-pronged injunction:

[1] Defendants, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and all persons in active concert or participation with them who receive actual notice of the injunction, are enjoined from denying handgun carry licenses to applicants who meet the requirements of D.C. Code ยง 22-4506(a) and all other current requirements for ...

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