The D.C. Council unanimously approved emergency legislation on Tuesday that will allow D.C. residents to carry concealed handguns with a permit.
Council members met for this emergency vote after a federal judge ruled in July that the District’s ban on concealed handguns was unconstitutional.
Concealed weapon permits will be distributed only if gun owners demonstrate a clear need for a firearm, for instance, having been a victim of domestic abuse, and if the applicant attends firearm safety training. Additionally, concealed weapons will remained absolutely banned in certain locations, such as government buildings and university or school campuses.
“We are pleased that the legislation keeps weapons off of colleges and universities,” Chief of the Georgetown University Police Department Jay Gruber wrote in an email to the Voice. “We will work with our [Metro Police Department] partners to respond to reports of weapons on our campus.”
Gruber recommended that students take the same precautions the police department always advises. In addition, he believes that the levels of safety off-campus will remain the same. “Criminals who want to carry weapons will be unaffected by this change,” Gruber wrote. “Students that want to carry weapons off-campus will have to comply with the new D.C. Code that legislates the carrying of weapons.”
The new law not only affects campus safety, but also has reignited the highly partisan political conversation about gun rights.
“The GU College Democrats supported the full ban on handguns in the District that was in place until it was ruled unconstitutional in July,” GU College Democrats’ Vice President Betsy Johnson (COL ‘16) wrote in an email to the Voice. “Given the circumstances, I believe that the concealed carry measure, which includes provisions requiring that license-seekers prove a ‘legitimate need’ for carrying a gun and go through gun safety training, is a very reasonable one.”
GU College Republicans did not respond to a request for comment.
The federal court that originally deemed the District’s law unconstitutional, suspended its ruling until October, allowing D.C. lawmakers to craft legislation adhering to constitutional rights. The Council modeled the bill after regulations in M.d., N.Y., and N.J. that use a licensing system as well. Mayor Vincent Gray is expected to sign the bill, which will be in effect for 90 days, into law. During this period, D.C. lawmakers hope to refine the emergency legislation with a more permanent solution. They have also asked the federal court to reconsider its decision.
D.C. officials did not want to ease old regulations, however, like the GU College Democrats, they felt that the bill was the best possible solution in light of the federal court’s ruling.
“While I would prefer that we did not have to change our laws to allow the carrying of concealed weapons by civilians, this bill ensures that we will be able to meet the requirements of the Constitution while maintaining the maximum amount of safeguards possible to protect our residents, visitors, workers and public-safety officers,” said Gray in a press release from the Executive Office of the Mayor.