If you’re sitting there pondering what you’ll purchase for your arsenal at home – or stewing in dread over an influx of weaponry – you should take note of one section from the court’s opinion.
Before this Court petitioners have stated that â€œif the handgun ban is struck down and respondent registers a handgun, he could obtain a license, assuming he is not otherwise disqualified,â€ by which they apparently mean if he is not a felon and is not insane. Brief for Petitioners 58. Respondent conceded at oral argument that he does not â€œhave a problem with . . . licensingâ€ and that the Districtâ€™s law is permissible so long as it is â€œnot enforced in an arbitrary and capricious manner.â€ Tr. of Oral Arg. 74â€“75. We therefore assume that petitionersâ€™ issuance of a license will satisfy respondentâ€™s prayer for relief and do not address the licensing requirement.
The court hasn’t said there’s a problem with licensing, and in other places in the opinion stated outright that some restrictions on the what, where, and how of having a weapon are perfectly okay. So what’s probably going to happen – any grandstanding to the contrary – is that the DC government is going to have to set up some structure for license applications and start processing them. The people who have been waiting with baited breath for this decision are probably going to wet themselves with anger, but the reality is that it’s unlikely any court will order them to have this done and operational in a very short period of time. Personally I’d wager that the process will be set up and operational no sooner than 60 days from now, very possibly even longer.
The devil here is in the details, though, and what exactly the licensing rules look like. Will the council be involved in drafting the rules or will they hand it off to an existing department? If you want press credentials in DC you go to a police spokesperson – will the council put the police in charge of issuing licenses or will they create a new body? What information will they want, and how many lawsuits are we going to see over that, given federal restrictions on how long you can jerk around with background checks and the like? Tom says the AG indicates you can expect to be fingerprinted, but what the city will want to do with those fingerprints is an interesting question.
All those questions assume that there’s not going to be a lot of pointless grandstanding and refusals, or writing of deliberately bad law. Maybe I’m giving the District leaders too much credit, but I presume they know better than to pass a licensing law that is so restrictive that nobody can qualify. That would surely be a one-way ticket to a court order, assuming the congresscritters don’t get involved. Aside from the fact that I think we have what could be the basis of a pretty good compromise here (you can have a gun but you need a license and you have to keep it at home), we don’t do the case for D.C. independent rule any good when the people who do the ruling look like unlawful jackasses.
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs