August 30, 2017: Wrenn v DC

On July 25, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an opinion on two cases that had opposite opinions from lower courts. The other case was Matthew Grace, et all v. DC, et all.  It was combined with Brian Wrenn v. DC for the U.S. Court of Appeals DC Circuit.  The majority decision and dissenting opinions are both are listed on the http://www.CADC.uscourts.gov web site.  16-7025 for Wrenn and 16-7067 for Grace.  I’m pretty sure it’s the same document for both opinions. 

The two complaints challenged the DC Councils effective ban on concealed carry by instructing the Police Department to create regulations to only issue permits for concealed carry to those with special need for self-defense. It is the discretion of the Police Chief to determine what satisfies “good reason to fear injury to [their] person or property” or “any other proper reason for carrying a pistol.”

Supporting the Appellants Brian Wreen, et all were: Second Amendment Foundation, Inc, and Pink Pistols. Friend of the court briefs were filed by Attorney Generals from Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma.  The Western States Sheriffs’ Association, the National Rifle Association, and Gun Owners of America, Inc.   (Where was Pam Bondi and Florida on this one?)

Supporting the current code were: Attorney Generals from Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Deepak Gupta for Everytown for Gun Safety, DC Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, and The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The majority opinion was written by Circuit Judge Thomas B. Griffith and was joined by Senior Circuit Judge Stephen F. Williams. The dissent was written by Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson.

It amazes me the judges who are experts on constitutional law have such disparate opinions and sometimes use such irrational reasoning to support their opinions. Remember that Heller v. DC was a 5-4 decision.  Lest you think that Heller is not a landmark decision, read Wreen v. DC and count the number of times it is referenced.  The Heller decision is ‘uuugggee. 

The difference in these two cases and the differing opinions of the Judges turns on the following point. Dissenting Judge Henderson stated: “Although I assume that the Second Amendment extends to some extent beyond the home, I am certain the core Second Amendment right does not. The application of strict scrutiny—let alone my colleagues’ application of a categorical ban—is, in my view, patently off-base.” 

That is the crux, the pivot, the proverbial stone upon which all that follows stands. Judges Griffith and Williams believe that the Second Amendments’ core lawful purpose is self-defense.  The need for self-defense might arise beyond as well as within the home.  A law-abiding Citizens ability to “bear” extends beyond the home and is his/her right to carry common firearms for self-defense beyond the home subject to relevant and long-standing regulations like bans on felons, the mentally-ill and sensitive places.

Judge Griffith also speaks to the case law used as examples for the “special need” going back to the Statute of Northampton that took effect in 1328. Griffith points out that by the time of the Founding, the “preexisting right” enshrined by the Amendment had ripened to include carry more broadly than the District contends based on tit’s reading of the 14th-century statute.  He goes on to provide examples and counter examples used by the defense and plaintiff and references the history provided in the Heller majority opinion that contradicts the interpretation of Patrick J. Charles.  The Heller majority is cited: “This view runs headlong into the history cited by the Supreme Court to show that the English “right secured in 1689 . . . was by the time of the founding understood to be an individual right protecting against both public and private violence,” Heller I, 554 U.S. at 594, so that the resulting Amendment guarantees the right to “possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” id. at 592 (emphasis added).”

Judges like Karen LeCraft Henderson don’t believe you have the right to defend yourself outside your home with a firearm. She and other Judges who hold this same opinion are in courts across the nation ruling on cases where governing bodies at all levels are making regulations that prevent Citizens from exercising this basic right enumerated in the Second Amendment. 

Keep in mind there is nothing beyond the conscious of the Legislators from passing unconstitutional laws and regulations. Until they are challenged by organizations like the Second Amendment Foundation they will stay on the books. 

 

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