AG Peter Nickles' argument against concealed carry

This flew a bit under the radar, but last week there were some "developments" in the fight to carry handguns in the District. I'll preface this by saying that I mostly agree with Heller, and that I don't believe "legalizing" guns will have any effect on gun violence.

DC Attorney General Peter Nickles has filed the city's official response to a lawsuit hoping to legalize carrying weapons in DC. Of course, the District government is opposed to any sort of public carry, whether "open carry" or concealed. (Fun fact, in Virginia, open carry is legal, and requires no permit. If you walk around Clarendon with a gun in a holster, people will likely call 911, but you aren't breaking the law.) I understand that it's Mayor Fenty's political position that gun control is good and helps prevent crime. However, Nickles' reasoning as expressed in this filing is a bit of a stretch.
[I]t would be far more difficult for MPD and Federal law enforcement agencies in the District of Columbia to ensure safety and security in the Nation’s Capital.

[P]rotecting government officials and infrastructure is a challenge for every cityin the United States. But in Washington, DC, the likelihood of attack is higher, and the challenges to protecting the city are greater.

[T]he high-profile human targets—from the Nation’s top elected leaders to the more than 400 foreign dignitaries that make official visits to DC each year—are also an obvious and attractive target.

[I]n addition to assisting the Secret Service with daily movements of the President and Vice President around the city, and protecting foreign dignitaries, MPD also provides security support for more than 4,000 special events annually. [I]magine how difficult it will be for law enforcement to safeguard the public, not to mention the new President at the Inaugural Parade, if carrying semi-automatic rifles were to suddenly become legal in Washington.

[A]llowing [weapons] to be carried in a large number of places outside the home will make this job much more dangerous and difficult.

It is clear to me and others engaged every day in securing DC against terrorism that our city is unique.
So if I am to understand this correctly, since DC is home to government officials and visiting dignitaries, citizens should not be allowed to apply for a permit to carry a gun in public. This is because permit-holding gun owners are going to decide to assassinate people. If the District allowed concealed carry permits, that would not extend to government buildings or courtrooms or anywhere else concealed weapons could be banned for security reasons. Obviously the President and other dignitaries never visit states that permit the carrying of concealed weapons.

Nickles also quotes MPD Chief Cathy Lanier regarding her inability to bring her sidearm into the United States Supreme Court:
The Federal Government considers the Court building to be so sensitive that, no matter who you are, you cannot wear your firearm in the building.

I would argue that similar caution should apply to the District of Columbia. [T]he District of Columbia, as the seat of the Federal government, with its multitude of critical official and symbolic buildings, monuments, and events, and high-profile public officials traversing its streets every day, is a city filled with “sensitive” places. Our laws should reflect that reality.
That reasoning just makes my head hurt.

The other argument that Nickles uses is the OK Corral or Wild Wild West argument... that if we permit people to carry weapons in public, everyone will start shooting at each other. Well, that already happens, but among people who don't have permits. Many other states have concealed carry permits, and are not seeing problems with massive gunfights breaking out. Northern Virginia allows concealed carry, and we don't have people with road rage shooting at each other on the Beltway or I-66.

So what is this really about? It's impossible to make an argument that the District's gun laws were preventing crime. Since Heller, we haven't seen an epidemic of anything at all relating to legal firearms. In fact, since the District relaxed the gun laws, there hasn't been a single instance of a legal firearm being discharged. We don't have children shooting each other, we don't have people accidentally shooting each other. Zip. Nada.

If the District were to implement a permitting process for concealed carry, allowing those with permits to carry registered handguns, I hardly see a problem with that. I don't think it's going to help fight street crime, there won't be that many people applying for the permits, and even fewer actively carrying. Perhaps there's something to be said that criminals might think twice about robbing someone if they might have a gun. Who knows. I just can't get behind AG Nickles and the District's argument on this matter.

I see people all the time saying that, if anything, guns should be harder to get. They cite all sorts of gun crimes that have happened in DC, explaining that gun crime is out of control. I don't understand how people can sit at their computer and type these things and believe that it makes sense. Saying that a person who wants to legally obtain, register, and carry a handgun is the same as a 16 year-old kid who shoots at some other kids and hits a woman walking home from work is completely ridiculous.

So what's the real reason why we should prohibit what would likely be a couple dozen people from legally carrying handguns?

Previous coverage: DC turns down voting, doesn't want guns


  1. So you think that in a city like DC with lots of gun crimes, people should be allowed to carry guns in public?

    His argument seems pretty straightforward to me. It is not because "permit-holding gun owners are going to decide to assassinate people."

    It is because when you see someone with a gun, you know, immediately, that it is not legal.

  2. Let me put that another way. The minute it's legal to carry a firearm, every thug will be suing the police for illegal search and seizure and discrimination if they see someone with a gun under their shirt and try to deal with it.

  3. In order to get a gun it must be registered with ATF. It requires an extensive background check. You can search someone with carrying a gun. If they have a permit for it then you let them go. "Thugs" likely have criminal records, they will not be able to get a permit...

    Thugs already get guns anyway illegally. You think they care whether or not its legal? It's for law-abiding citizens to be able to protect themselves without worrying about becoming a criminal for it.

  4. As someone who was recently robbed by a teen bearing a gun with the police unwilling to initially even take a report (much less thoroughly canvass for the suspects), I completely agree with Dave on this.

    Interestingly enough, I asked two of the officers what they would have done in my situation. Both promptly and definitively declared, "I would have shot him." If I had been armed, there'd be at least one less violent criminal on the streets.

    Unfortunately, the Metropolitan Police and the mayor refuse to allow average hard-working, taxpaying citizens to carry (even openly) the tools necessary to defend against real threats. MPD allows its full-time officers to carry weapons concealed, so they must see some value in being armed while going about one's personal business, even though they public advocate against it.

    In cases like an armed robbery or burglary, every second counts but the police are minutes away (through no fault of their own). Allowing citizens to properly defend themselves is essential to our peace and security, and is so important that it's listed in our Bill of Rights as citizens.

    Until DC realizes this, we'll all continue to be walking targets for criminals who are armed regardless of the law.

  5. bad guys will get guns weather they are legal or not. anyone wanting to take a shot at any notable official isn't going to let the districts laws get in their way, seeing as they have already decided to attempt murder. if the bad guys have guns, why not let the good guys protect themselves?

  6. "if the bad guys have guns, why not let the good guys protect themselves"

    Your hero is bernard goetz?

    It also assumes that having a gun in any way makes you safer. Have you ever been mugged? It's not like they tell you to meet at the OK corrall. All you could do with a gun in a mugging 99 out of 100 times is shoot someone in the back as they left, which would land you in prison if you hit them, or possibly hit an innocent bystander.

  7. Using their logic we shouldn't allow any members of the military to live in DC either. An Army combat engineer with explosives expertise could do far more damage than some thug if he suddenly went kookoo for cocoa puffs.

    But that's completely stupid and unreasonable. Much like the idea that banning guns will prevent assassinations from happening. If a person is hell-bent on assassinating somebody I really don't think they care if it's illegal for them to have a gun.

  8. Jamie, I'm going to have to disagree with your first two comments.

    #1, that would really only apply to open carry. generally, though, criminals don't carry weapons on holsters. since carrying a weapon would require a permit, police could approach anyone with a firearm and ask for the permit.

    #2, again, since carrying a weapon would require a permit, if the police stop someone and find a weapon on them (in the course of a search, which is what they have to do now anyway), they could arrest them for carrying w/o permit. in fact, if you look at how gun crimes are written up in DC, it's "carrying firearm without a permit" except there is no permit.

    thugs aren't going to get permits, and if they are stopped with a gun nothing will change.

  9. Excellent post. We won't be seeing concealed carry in DC anytime soon, however. Gura is just going for a court ruling that carry is part of 2A. The Council, in its infinite wisdom, removed a 30 yr provision that actually allowed the chief to issue permits (although none were ever issued).

    I am sick of all this "DC is special" crap. Don't fall into the fear mongering of Mendelson or Cheh. Do you really fear for your life every time to leave the District? Do you sigh a breath of relief when you cross Memorial bridge back into the city?

    I am voting against all the incumbents in this upcoming primary soley because of the mis-handling of the gun issue. We have squandered millions of dollars and the best chance for representation in 30 years thanks to the Council's petulance.

  10. Oh, and to the scaredy cats. 38 states have "shall issue" concealed carry, meaning if you can pass all the tests, they must issue it to you. The rest, (with the exception of 2) have "shall issue" permitting.

  11. @jaime-then don't carry a gun. No one will force you to.

  12. I'm guessing that the man in the wheel chair who shot a woman stepping off the metro bus on Monday afternoon in NE wouldn't pass a background check?

  13. DC's gun ban goes waaaay back in time to the 1960s, more or less, when a lot of folks started going armed right around the time of the infamous Martin Luther King Jr Riots. This started to get out of hand, and between that and a raging heroin problem in the newly-devastated 14th Street corridor and comparable war-zones, the legislation was passed.

    Times are far different now, and what many people saw as escalating racial tensions promoting armament on both sides and possibly ramping up to even more riots but with lots more firearms, well, that's all over.

    A sensible permitting process -- ideally with the deepest possible background checks -- could solve a lot of problems.

    Among other things, if you have the permit, and you defend yourself or someone else, you might stand for charges of homicide, but you won't be ashamed to stand trial because every action -- including the gun carry -- was both legal and right.