D.C. Attorney General Ignores Court Order, Refuses Gun Permits

D.C. Attorney General Ignores Court Order, Refuses Gun Permits

Less than a year ago, Kim Davis ignored a court order from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky and refused to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples. She was held in contempt of court, served five days in jail, and was ruthlessly attacked in the media.

Now the office of Karl Racine, the Washington, D.C. attorney general, has ordered D.C. government employees to ignore a court order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The order by the D.C. District Court Judge Richard Leon was to stop denying individuals applying for a concealed-carry permit from requiring a “good reason,” and to immediately update the forms to no longer require that.

This “good reason” requirement, while it might sound nice, just means D.C. government claimed the authority to arbitrarily deny people their Second Amendment rights because the D.C. government doesn’t like the reason they wanted to be able to defend themselves. As open-carry is completely prohibited, the inability to get a permit to conceal-carry means no one is allowed to bear arms outside his home without the permission of the D.C. government.

For instance, according to the D.C. government, living in a “high-crime area” is not considered a “good enough” reason to want to be able to defend yourself. This is hardly the strict scrutiny applied to the other enumerated rights in the Bill of Rights like the First Amendment.

Give Me My Rights

After the order, I went to apply for a concealed-carry permit in the District of Columbia. The police officers there told me the D.C. attorney general’s office had ordered them to ignore the court order and continue to deny applications. Thinking there might be some kind of mistake, I contacted the AG’s office, which explicitly told me if I had a complaint about what they did I could file that complaint online.

It is the AG’s duty to see that the court order is properly followed even if he thinks it is wrong.

The rule of law is worth more than this by an officer of the court such as the attorney general. The D.C. attorney general is free to seek a stay of the court order from the D.C. Circuit Court, but until that opinion is properly stayed it must be obeyed. It is the AG’s duty to see that the court order is properly followed even if he thinks it is wrong. It will take time for D.C. to update the forms as required, but the AG’s office cannot legally order them to ignore the court order and not at least start to draft new forms to inform people that they are not required to submit a “good cause” to exercise a constitutional right.

While Davis just asked state government take her name off marriage licenses so her employees could sign them for gay couples so she personally did not violate her religious beliefs, the D.C. attorney general is preventing anyone from issuing the license. Will the D.C. attorney general be held to the same level of scorn in the media as Kim Davis? Unlikely, given the liberal bias in most of the media; opposition to gun rights seems like their own kind of religion.

Davis at least could point to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act her state legislature designed to protect people like her from violating her deeply held religious beliefs. Does the D.C. attorney general’s office have any excuse for their actions? So far they have not given any.

Those of us who value the rule of law should speak out against the lawless acts of the D.C. attorney general. No one is above the law, not even the D.C. attorney general’s office.

Correction: Davis’s legal argument used her state RFRA to defend her, not the federal one, as an earlier version of this article said. We regret the error.

UPDATE: Rob Marus, communications director for the D.C. attorney general’s office, responded to this article with the following.

“[T]he Office of the Attorney General has not and would not instruct any officer of the District government to ignore any Court order. As the District stated in its reply brief filed with the Court yesterday (copy attached), the Metropolitan Police Department last week revised its concealed-carry licensing website (http://mpdc.dc.gov/page/applying-concealed-carry-pistol-license) to read:

 “‘In light of the preliminary injunction issued by Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Grace v. District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 15-2234, the Metropolitan Police Department will not require applicants to comport with the ‘Good Reason’ requirement under D.C. Official Code § 7-2509.11(1)(A) & (B), while the injunction is effective (see ‘Grace Preliminary Injunction’ document, attached below). Applicants must still meet all other requirements when applying for a license to carry a concealed firearm. Applicants who were previously denied pursuant to the ‘Good Reason’ requirement may submit a new application. The application fee for re-applicants meeting this criteria will be waived. New applicants should use the existing forms until such time as the Department is able to revise forms in accordance with the court’s order.'”

Devin Watkins formerly worked at the Institute for Justice and graduated with honors from the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. Prior to his legal career he was a senior software developer at Intel and WebMD. In 2012, he represented Oregon at the Republican National Convention.
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