The Second Amendment Provides the Right to Keep and Bear Arms … But Citizens of Washington D.C. Must First Prove it’s a Necessity

There have been two fundamental Second Amendment cases which have reached the Supreme Court in recent years. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court struck down a DC law prohibiting firearms within the District. More recently in McDonald v. Chicago, the Court at long last incorporated the Second Amendment through the Fourteenth Amendment to apply equally at the state and local level, as it does at the federal level.

On the heels of those decisions a federal court found the District’s personal, concealed carry restriction unconstitutional. This led to the implementation of concealed carry provisions which have finally seen individuals licensed to carry within the District. However, gun enthusiasts are complaining that the provisions are too restrictive – that it should be easier to apply and be granted a license to carry.

The District’s provision is a “may issue” law in which applicants encounter a myriad of restrictions, including 18 hours of required training, $110 in application fees, and applicants having to prove their need for a firearm. But is that really so bad?

No matter your political ideology or interpretive technique regarding the Second Amendment,[1] one thing is certain. There are no clauses or caveats which wholly prevent any type of restriction regarding when and where the people can “keep and bear Arms.” Yes, the Amendment does state that the right “shall not be infringed.” That, however, does not mean it is provision-proof.

At its very core, the Second Amendment allows the right of the people to have a gun and such a right shall not be wrongly limited or restricted. In no way does this mean that the Second Amendment is beyond limitation; only that it cannot be restricted wrongly.

So where does that leave us as citizens seeking to affirm our Second Amendment rights? Well, first off, as shown above the right can be restricted. Sensible restrictions are pertinent to a sensible society – in all things not just gun rights. I am fully entrenched in the pro-gun portion of the population. But as a legal scholar, fitted nicely with good common sense, I am certain the Framers did not envision a world in which citizens were trolling around armed to the teeth with full-autos and the like.

Now this does not mean that overly-restrictive gun regulations should abound. Instead, legislators need to consider sensible legislation which provides for sensible results. The District’s provision does well, at least to me, up until the point where a citizen must prove the need for a carry license before one is provided. Having more training in handling a firearm is never a bad thing. Cost for licensing is an unfortunate bureaucratic necessity at times. But having to prove a gun is needed cannot be done until the actual need arises.

Most sensible gun owners will tell you that they hope such a time never comes for them. But to try and prove such a necessity is impossible to do because no one truly knows when that necessity might arise. There are numerous examples in which people are carrying about their daily activities in safe, unassuming areas when all of a sudden they are thrown into a life or death situation. Choose any one of a number of the recent high-profile shootings as such an example.

So, for the District to require applicants to prove they need a gun before such need actually arises is beyond bureaucratic mumbo jumbo. It’s simply mindboggling.

Personally, I feel it is great that the District has finally allowed its citizens the ability to apply for the right to concealed carry. Unfortunately, proving you are in need of being granted such right is likely going to foil the opportunity for most.

[1] For the record my personal belief is that the Second Amendment is an individual right. This is based upon research of the Amendment as well as where it is placed in the Bill of Rights. In law, like things are grouped together. It makes no sense to have the Second Amendment grouped together with a bunch of individual rights amendments if the Framers did not intend for it to be an individual right as well.