A friend of mine who has been very involved in several court cases that have made a positive impact for gun owners in Washington DC recently testified on Bill 20-930. He sent me a copy of his testimony and I wanted to share it with all of you.
I am honored to call him my friend and I am thankful for his continued effort to fight for the rights of gun owners.
TESTIMONY ON BILL 20-930
President, DC Chapter, Community Association for Firearms Education (“CAFÉ”)
Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this hearing. My testimony is divided into three parts. The first, provides background on myself and on CAFÉ. The second, addresses legal and practical issues with Bill 20-930. The third, explains why gun carry by trained responsible citizens is not only not a threat to public safety, but is an enhancement to public safety.
Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’ve been a gun owner for more than 30 years. When I moved into the District of Columbia I knew it outlawed handguns, and I knew that was inconsistent with the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
In 2002, I decided to challenge DC’s law after the Federal 5th circuit affirmed that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court decision known as District of Columbia v. Heller, a case in which I joined with Rich Heller and four other District residents confirmed the right to possess a functional firearm in the home. I later joined with several other plaintiffs to challenge the District’s prohibition on carrying a firearm for personal protection. My comments here should not be considered as a litigation position in Palmer. I’m speaking only for myself and CAFÉ, and as a party in that litigation. My position in that litigation is ably represented by my attorney, Alan Gura.
I decided that if I was going to take a public role in defending the Second Amendment then I should know what I’m doing. I took the NRA First Steps Pistol course. I applied for and obtained concealed carry permits in Virginia, Florida and Utah. I then attended a four day firearms course offered by a school in Nevada. I’ve been back to that school some 13 times training in handgun, shotgun, and rifle, and taken a host of additional training. My instructors have there have included active and retired police officers, Green Berets, and Marine Scout Snipers. One instructor was even the Greek equivalent of a US Navy Seal. I’ve regularly trained along-side active duty police officers, federal agents, active duty military personnel and civilian government contractors. In all I have some 600 hours of formal firearms training, and average more than 100 hours a year. I’ve studied active killer episodes, including the DC police after action report on the Navy Yard shooting and the terrorist takeover of Beslam Schoo in Russia. I’m certified by the Maryland State Police to teach their concealed carry license qualification curriculum, and by the NRA to teach their Basic Pistol and Personal Protection in the Home courses.
Approximately three months ago, after the Palmer decision was released, for the better part of three days until the stay in that case was granted, I carried a firearm wherever I went outside my home. I carried to the bank. I carried to the grocery store. A carried to the dog park. I even engaged in a lengthy discussion (in the legal business we call it an argument) with a fellow dog owner over the merits of gun carry.
I didn’t shoot anyone. My gun did not jump out of its holster and fire by itself. I was not looking for trouble. I simply went about my business as normal. In short, I did what 11.1 million other Americans do who carry a firearm for personal protection. I exercised personal responsibility for my self-protection. And nothing more.
Bill 20-930 represents the city’s emotional pique at losing the Palmer case. It is a bill born out of prejudice and spite rather than an honest attempt to address Judge Scullin’s opinion. It is a bill that will get innocent people killed, who need not die. If there was any doubt as to the degree of antipathy that members of this council hold gun owners and innocent victims of crime, it was resolved when some council members suggested making the identity of carry license holders public. What a poorly thought out idea. Publicize the names and addresses of stalking victims and persons facing threats of violence so that their stalkers and other persons looking to do them harm can more easily find them. I trust Chief Lanier has explained what an utterly dangerous idea that is.
Let me be blunt. You acknowledge that someone being stalked or threatened with harm might, I repeat might because this bill confirms no right to bear arms, merit a carry license, and because you don’t like that you have to give a carry license to anyone, you are going to punish them by telling the bad guy where they can find them so they can harm them. I implore you not to put innocent victims of stalking and crime at such risk.
Bill 20-930 does not address the key element of the decision in Palmer. Judge Scullin made clear that the Second Amendment right to carry arms is routed in self-defense. Each of the plaintiffs in Palmer stated their intent to carry a firearm for self-defense. The court noted that the Supreme Court has recognized self-defense as a “basic right” and the “central component” of the Second Amendment, citing McDonald v. Chicago. Yet, Bill 20-930, according to DC’s Attorney General, does not allow a person to obtain a permit based on a desire to carry a firearm for self-defense.
What Bill 20-930 actually does is change the law from “we won’t issue a carry license” to “we might issue a carry license to someone, at some point, if we feel like it but we really don’t want to.” That is not recognizing a right to carry a firearm for self-defense. Bill 20-930 reminds me of how my home county in Virginia 11 years after Brown v. Board
of Education decided that it has complied with the Supreme Court’s decision by admitting one black child to my sixth grade class and calling that integrated. Your massive resistance to Heller and its progeny is no more justified than my home state’s massive resistance to Brown.
If it was not abundantly clear, Judge Scullin based his decision principally on the 9th Circuit’s Peruta decision rather than the 7th Circuit’s decision in Moore v. Madigan. Peruta specifically invalidated the practice of the San Diego Sheriff of denying carry permits where citizens merely sought to carry a firearm for self-defense. This was not considered good enough cause under the sheriff’s interpretation of California law. Moore on the other hand involved a complete prohibition on citizen carry of firearms similar to DC’s absolute prohibition on carry. In basing his decision on Peruta Judge Scullin has foreclosed the restrictive may issue policy contemplated by Bill 20-930.
The Supreme Court in McDonald made clear that the Second Amendment codifies a fundamental right. To curtail a fundamental right you must have a legitimate compelling governmental interest, there must be a close fit between the means chosen to achieve that compelling governmental interest and you must use the least restrictive means to achieve the legitimate compelling governmental interest. I will grant you that preventing dangerous or irresponsible people from carrying guns in public could be considered a compelling governmental interest. However, denying 99.99 percent of the population a right guaranteed by the Constitution, to prevent a few dangerous or irresponsible persons from exercising that right cannot be considered a close fit between the means and ends or the least restrictive means to accomplish that goal.
You may think that citizens carrying guns in public is inherently a threat to public safety. You would be wrong as I will show you below. But more fundamentally that view is foreclosed by the Second Amendment itself which confirms that the right to carry a firearm cannot be infringed.
Although I fully agree that persons who are victims of stalking or who have been threatened may be suitable persons to carry firearms for personal protection, the fact is that most criminal attacks happen without warning, certainly without sufficient warning for someone to jump though the hoops necessary to get a license under Bill 20-930. My co-plaintiff Tom Palmer had no warning up until the time of the incident itself that a gay bashing mob would attempt to kill him. Having his firearm with him that day saved his life. That is why a “shall issue” license regime is necessary to afford citizens their Constitutional right to carry a firearm for self-defense.
In response to the Moore decision, the Illinois legislature enacted a shall issue permitting scheme where all persons meeting objective training and qualifications standards would be issued a permit unless there was evidence presented to law enforcement that such persons would not be suitable persons to carry a firearm. This is a permitting regime that more appropriately and Constitutionally balances the government’s interest in public safety against the individual’s right of self-defense.
Accordingly, to comply with Palmer you need to amend Bill 20-930 to require the Chief to issue a carry license to an otherwise qualified individual unless the Chief has evidence that doing so would be a threat to public safety.
Furthermore, as written, Bill 20-930 contains numerous restrictions well outside the norm. For example, none of the six restrictive may issue states, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey or New York prohibit permit holders from carrying a firearm on public transportation. Bill 20-930 is an outlier in this regard. A bus is simply not a sensitive area, nor is a taxicab.
And in all 50 states it is legal to carry a firearm into an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages. Some states such as Virginia prohibit a carry permit holder from consuming alcohol is such establishments. Others, such as Texas, prohibit carry into an establishment that receives more than 50 percent of its revenue from the sale of alcohol. But no state flatly prohibits carry into a restaurant serving alcohol as this bill proposes to do. The bill should be amended to bring it within the norm for other jurisdictions.
The result of these sundry restrictions is to seriously eviscerate any benefit of self-protection to the mere few who might be able to convince the Chief to issue them a permit.
Let’s take a hypothetical. Assume a single mother scraping to get by waitressing in a restaurant is being stalked by her ex-husband. She at least according to the Attorney General might get a permit. But she doesn’t own a car so she has to take public transportation. So she cannot carry to work and back. And even if she could get on public transportation, she cannot carry into her place of employment because it sells alcohol, even though she cannot and does not drink on the job. As Chief Lanier can tell you, stalkers lay in wait for their victims. Her stalker will know where she works, when she works, when she gets off, and most importantly of all, that she will be disarmed when she is going to and coming home from work. She will be an easy victim despite having a carry permit.
The 1000 foot buffer zone from public protests, motorcades and political events contained in Bill 20-930 is overbroad and irrational. The effective range of a handgun from even an experienced shooter is less than 50 yards. The buffer zone set forth in Bill 20-930 is more than six times that distance. It is therefore substantially overbroad. Moreover,
given the necessary notice provision in the bill that requires an officer to recognize that a person is carrying a firearm and then to inform the license holder that he or she must leave the area, the provision is in reality meaningless. Since license holders will be carrying concealed, law enforcement personnel will not know that license holders are carrying their firearms. This provision should be stricken from the bill.
Ultimately, the underlying premise behind Bill 20-930 is the council’s fear that citizens carrying firearms for self-protection jeopardize public safety. Thus the bill seeks impermissibly to curtail the right to carry. But contrary to the council’s fears, responsible citizen carry promotes public safety. Indeed, if you truly want to promote public safety and minimize violence, you need to take at least three steps.
First, abolish the war on drugs and make them legal. I recently spoke with a retired homicide detective from Baltimore with more than 25 years on the job. I asked him, “Would you agree that 80 percent or so of the killings you saw were drug related.” Answer, “that’s about right.” Abolishing the war on drugs would promote public safety by taking the profit out of the drug trade and the criminal gangs and enterprises which promote it. You have taken the first step in terms of decriminalizing marijuana. DC’s citizens will take the next step in November in terms of legalizing pot. Ultimately, as a society we need to see drug use and addiction as medical and psychological issues rather than legal issues.
Second, improve the mental health system in this country so that seriously disturbed individuals are identified and treated before they become a threat to themselves and others. Think back to the higher profile multiple victim homicides we’ve seen in the last few years. Virginia Tech; Tuscon, AZ; Aurora, CO; Sandy Hook; Santa Barbara; Washington Navy Yard. Each of these killers was seriously mentally disturbed but did not get the mental health treatment they needed. And I might point out, all but one acquired his weapons by passing a background check. And all but one happened in a so-called “gun-free” zone, a location off limits to citizen carry of firearms.
That brings me to my third point, adopt a carry bill allowing all qualified law-abiding citizens to carry firearms for personal protection.
Since the 9/11 attacks, we speak of police and EMS as first responders. The truth, however, is that they are the second responders. They arrive after the mugging. They arrive after the rape. They arrive after the murder. The actual first responder(s) are the intended victims and any witnesses in the immediate vicinity.
The nature of a criminal attack is about a disparity of force. Criminals look for victims who are easy prey; persons who cannot offer resistance. That is why women and the elderly are most at risk from street crime. Criminal attacks on the street generally happen rapidly. There is generally no time to call 911 to stop the attack. We teach students situational awareness to avoid becoming a victim. The best fight is the one you avoid.
The idea of “stand your ground” laws have gotten a lot of press. Generally that has been the law in this country since the founding. There is generally no duty to retreat. However, there is no shame in running aware from a threat. I am a big fan of it. But there are times when you cannot avoid the attack. You cannot leave your spouse or child behind. You likely cannot run away if ambushed. You likely cannot escape if you walk in on a burglary in progress. One of my neighbors down the street where I live learned that lesson when she came home after work to find one or more persons burglarizing her home. She did not survive the encounter. According to police she was raped and strangled. Her murderer, or one of her murderers, was finally caught after the incident was featured on Americas Most Wanted. I only wish that she had been carrying some tool which would have allowed her to fight to save her life.
If you think we believe that carrying a gun guarantees our safety, you are sadly mistaken. Citizen gun carry is only about equalizing the odds. There was a saying in the old West. “God made man. Colonel Colt made them all equal.” What are the odds that a 110 pound woman can prevail in the fight with a 200 pound man? How about even a healthy fit man against several assailants? Or an unarmed person against an attacker with a deadly weapon? Those are not good odds.
A friend of mine was attacked in the parking lot coming out of a grocery store while her 8 year old daughter stood horrified. She tells her story: “One of the things that the bad guy said to me when he was on top of me was, ‘We are going to get up from here and you are going to leave with me.’ and I would have.” As one of my female trainers makes clear, “nothing good happens to us when we are taken from the scene.” Luckily, the assailant fled when two other persons drove up.
My friend before the attack could best be described as a pacifist. A former California college professor, she would not allow a gun in her home. Indeed, her views on firearms were cemented when her brother took his own life with a gun.
After her attack, she went through a lot of pain, both physical and emotional. Her ultimate response was intellectual, however. She sought to learn how to prevent such an attack from happening again or to survive the attack if she could not prevent it.
She learned to fight. She learned to fight with her hands. She learned to fight with a knife. And she learned to fight with a gun. She did not ever intend again to allow herself or her children to be prey to a vicious predator. Here again are her words:
“The irony is that so many of us say, we are not going to live our lives in fear. We are not going to learn how to protect ourselves or carry a gun because we refuse to let the bad guy win. We refuse to give him that kind of power over our lives. We use the excuse of not being afraid and that lie puts us in the most vulnerable position we can be in, defenseless. When you are out of excuses and when someone is lying on top of you telling you exactly how they plan to take full control of your life, well, then you will get to experience the kind of life altering fear . . . that I did.”
I am so proud of my friend. Not only has she learned to take care of herself. She has learned to take care of others. She’s now a firearms instructor. She’s a certified EMT. She has for the last year enrolled in paramedic school. She spends two days a week on an ambulance. One day a week in a hospital and one day a week in class. This is in addition to being the mother of four school aged children, three of whom are deaf. And she carries a firearm everywhere she can for her and their protection. I think that’s a good idea. She is not a threat to public safety. Neither are the 11 million other permit holders in this country.
Some 38 states are “shall issue” firearm carry permit jurisdictions, either by law or by practice. No permit at all is required for open or concealed carry in six states. The majority of states allow citizens to carry a firearm openly without a permit or license. Several recent United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decisions have the result of requiring California and Hawaii to adopt shall issue policies. Those cases are still subject to appeal. May issue laws – which allow some government official to decide if your life is really worth protecting with a firearm – are in effect in four northeastern states, including Maryland. Federal courts in those states have upheld these laws – not without some dissent – creating what is known as a split between various U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal and between various state supreme courts over whether may issue laws comply with the Second Amendment. Ultimately the Supreme Court may decide this issue definitively.
There has been a rapid increase in the number of citizens with concealed carry permits or licenses. Currently more than 11 million persons have permits to carry firearms in public.1 This is a substantial increase from the 8 million found in 2011 in a GAO study. A previous study found 4.6 million permit holders in 2007, which had increased from 2.7 million permit holders in1999. Are these permit holders a threat to public safety?
1 Crime Prevention Research Center.
MPD Chief Lanier does not think so. She told the Washington Post that public carrying of personal protection firearms would have minimal effect on street crime. “Law abiding citizens that register firearms, that follow the rules, are not our worry,” she said. Chief Lanier said fears were overstated that end of the carry ban would impede everyday policing by putting thousands of additional guns on the street. She explained that criminals don’t possess properly registered guns. She continued, “Our worry really is, how do we maintain the level of security in the nation’s capital that we’re required to maintain 24 hours a day in the areas that we’re required to maintain security?” Her concern was thus how to designate so-called sensitive areas where firearm carry would be disallowed.
Chief Lanier’s view that carry by law-abiding citizens is not a problem is supported by the empirical evidence.
Since Florida’s carry law went into effect in 1987, Florida has issued 2.64 million permits. Only168 have been revoked for any kind of firearms related violation. The vast majority of those “gun crimes” were non-violent offenses such as failure to conceal or mistakenly taking a gun into a prohibited location. For all revocations, the rate is .012 percent.2
Homicide rates fell in Texas faster than the national average after concealed carry went into effect.3
Texas citizens with concealed carry permits are 14 times less likely to commit a crime than those without a concealed carry permit, and five times less likely to commit a violent crime.4 Revocation rates are extremely low for concealed carry holders. For example, the revocation rate for Texas for all reasons, not just commission of a crime, from 2009-13 was .13 percent (thirteen per ten thousand). For Michigan, from 2010-2014 the revocation rate for all reasons .26 percent (26 per ten thousand).
In Texas, only .021 percent (21 per 100,000) were convicted of any misdemeanor or felony, violent or not. Interestingly, the rate of violation of the average concealed carrier is substantially below the rate of criminal violation by police officers. Total police offenses in Florida were 0.124 percent (124 per 100,000). This was six times higher than the rate of offenses in Florida by concealed carry holders. The rate of police offenses in Texas is 10 times that for concealed carry holders.
2 Florida Department of Justice. See also Crime Prevention Research Center.
3 Bureau of Justice Statistics, online database, reviewing Texas and U.S. violent crime from 1995-2001.
4 An Analysis of the Arrest Rate of Texas Concealed Carry Handgun License Holders as Compared to the Arrest Rate of the Entire Texas Population, William E. Sturdevant, PE, September 11, 1999.
Police officers overwhelmingly support citizen carry of firearms. Of 15,000 police officers surveyed, 91 percent said concealed carry should be permitted without question and without further restrictions.5 86 percent of police officers surveyed believe mass public shooting causalities would be reduced by concealed carry.6 66 percent of police chiefs believe that concealed carry reduces rates of violent crime.7
As concealed carry permits have increased, violent crime has decreased. Violent crime in turn has trended down year after year as more permits are issued. From 2007 to 2013 murder rates fell from 5.6 to 4.4 per 100,000. That is a 22 percent drop. In the same time concealed carry permits have increased 130 percent. Overall violent crime fell by 22 percent as well during this period.
These fact do not, of course, prove causation although it certainly implies that concealed carry is a factor in decreased violence. What they do suggest is that concealed carry does not lead to an increase in violence. If concealed carry is at worst a neutral factor in criminality, this hardly supports an infringement on the Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense.
Concealed carry permit schemes screen out persons likely to commit violence. All states that issue permits require a criminal background check prior to issuance. Thus, only persons already screened would have the right to carry concealed for personal protection. This excludes the vast majority of persons likely to commit an offense. Significant violent crime is committed by persons under 21, who are ineligible to purchase a handgun from a federally licensed dealer. Almost all state permit laws require a concealed carrier to be over 21.
Most violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders who are ineligible to possess a firearm. One study showed that 81 percent of all homicide defendants have at least one arrest on their record. 66 percent have two or more arrests, 70 percent have at least one conviction; 54 percent have more than one felony conviction.8
Milwaukee’s Police Chief recently said “85 percent of our shootings are people with extensive criminal records…” A local paper fact-checked the Chief and found that the empirical evidence largely supported his statement. Indeed in non-fatal shootings in that
5 Gun Policy and Law Enforcement, PoliceOne, arch 2013.
7 National Association of Chiefs of Police, 17th Annual Survey of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, 2005.
8 Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties 1998.
city in 2011, 97 percent of the suspects (177) had at least one prior arrest with an average of 7.5 arrests. 57 percent of the 72 homicide suspects had at least six prior arrests.
Most domestic murders – which generally do not happen outside the home anyway – are preceded by a long history of assaults as well.9 So concealed carry is likely to have no adverse effect on domestic abuse. To the contrary it is likely to discourage stalking since potential victims would have the opportunity to arm themselves for self-protection.
Efforts to discredit concealed carry holders are extremely weak and flawed. They rely on anecdotal incidents that are generally sloppily researched or a generalized fear of shoot outs in the streets over parking spots, or that innocents will get struck in a cross fire. Can such incidents happen, sure. Are they extremely rare? Absolutely. Do they happen with the police themselves? All too often. I remind you of an incident in New York City where two officers confronted a gun wielding suspect and ended up wounding 9 innocent persons. We don’t disarm New York City cops because of that isolated incident because the value to society of having them armed vastly outweighs the harm that would otherwise occur. According to a study by Newsweek magazine, only two percent of civilian shootings involve an innocent person being shot (not killed). The error rate for police is 11 percent. Think about that statistic.
The principal attack on concealed carry holders comes from an anecdotal compilation from the anti-gun lobby group, Violence Policy Center (“VPC”). That organization asserts that concealed carry holders were responsible for 636 deaths from May 2007 to March 2014. However, this report has been widely criticized. Setting aside that this is an average of 70 per year among a population of 11 million, VPC’s research has been fully discredited by Historian Clayton Cramer.10
Mr. Cramer’s research into the individual cases cited by VPC showed a large contingent of the killings by alleged permit holders to be suicides.11 In fact suicides account for 129 of the so-called “concealed carrier deaths” in VPC’s report. Although suicide is a serious mental health problem, it is irrelevant to the issue of whether the public carrying of firearms creates a general risk to public safety.
9 Straus, Murray A. 1986, Domestic Violence and Homicide Antecedents, 62 Bull. N.U. Acad. Med. P. 454.
10 Mr. Cramer debunked the flawed and falsified research of anti-gun academic Michael Bellesiles resulting in Mr. Bellesiles resigning from the faculty of Emory University. In addition, Mr. Bellesiles’s Bancroft Prize for the book “Arming America” was rescinded by Columbia University after having been found to have falsified data and engaged in other scholarly misconduct in connection with the book.
11 Violence Policy Center’s Concealed Carry Killers: Less than it Appears, at 1.
A host of other problems plague VPC’s report. For example, VPC considered a security guard licensed to carry a firearm only on the job and not concealed to be a concealed permit holder, and persons in states not requiring a permit to nevertheless be permit holders.12 In other cases cited by VPC, it could not be confirmed that the alleged permit holder actually held a permit.13 In many cases, VPC relied on unconfirmed newspaper accounts that the suspect had a permit while Mr. Cramer was able to confirm that the suspect had no such permit.14 VPC also was found to have included shooting occurring in the home,15 accidental shootings, shooting by former permit holders16 and shootings found to be justifiable, i.e., in self-defense.17 In all, looking at 174 incidents Cramer found that 25 deaths attributed to concealed carriers did not even involve a licensed concealed carrier.18 VPC included cases that were pending, despite that they had been resolved in favor of the permit holder.19 Mr. Cramer reports 21 such incidents as pending involving 23 deaths, in some cases pending with no charges filed and for more than four years and thus suggesting the authorities considered the shootings not criminal.20
Most disturbing is evidence that VPC double counted incidents by relying on both official police statistics and separately on newspaper accounts.21 VPC also attributed multiple murders of police officers to concealed permit holders despite the suspects having convictions for felony offenses which would disqualify them from both firearm possession and permit issuance.22 VPC also included a number of incidents involving retired police officers.23 Although federal law authorizes retired officers to carry concealed, such incidents are irrelevant to the issue of concealed carry by ordinary citizens. VPC reports 38 incidents, involving 72 deaths, which took place in locations where no concealed carry permit was required, i.e., in the homes or businesses of gun owners.24 Thus, they did not involve a shooting in public by a permit holder. Amazingly, VPC included incidents where the killings in question did not even include a firearm.25
12 Id. at 2 & 6.
13 Id. at 2 & 6.
14 Id. at 3-4
15 Id. at 6-7, 26-27
16 Id. at 7.
17 Id. at 10.
18 Id. at 7.
19 Id. at 9-12
20 Id. at 12-13.
21 Id. at 13-14.
22 Id. at 14-15.
23 Id. at 17
24 Id. at 19.
25 Id. at 27, citing cases of strangulation
After giving VPC the benefit of the doubt as to cases where it could not be verified whether the suspect had a permit and where cases were listed as “pending” Mr. Cramer concluded that at best (for VPC) there were 79 incidents involving 92 deaths of a licensed concealed carrier committing criminal homicide in public with a concealable firearm.26 That is approximately 13 deaths a year from a population of 11 million, again giving VPC the benefit of the doubt on pending cases and cases where it could not be verified whether the suspect even had a permit. VPC’s research therefore is hardly an indictment of concealed carrier permit holders. This data is of course consistent with the proposition that concealed carry permit holders are far more law-abiding than the general population, a point Chief Lanier plainly understands.
Chief Lanier summarized her one concern with public carrying of guns in terms of providing security for special events involving diplomats and political leaders. Those are not unique concerns to Washington, DC. The capital grounds, the White House and federal buildings are already off limits to non-law enforcement firearm carry. So are schools. The Heller decision gives support that these so-called sensitive areas may restrict firearm carry. Police may take reasonable steps to protect politicians and dignitaries, for example, requiring all participants to pass through metal detectors. Such precautions are not unusual and indeed are standard for Presidential events even now in the District and elsewhere.
Even though firearm carry can be excluded that these events, there is little to fear from licensed concealed carriers even were they allowed at these events.27 Almost all persons committing violence at such events have severe mental health problems. Efforts focused more on identification and treatment of these persons would have a greater effect on achieving adequate security than restrictions on licensed concealed carry.
In sum, Bill 20-930 is a fail. It should be amended to require the Chief to issue licenses to qualified law abiding citizens unless the Chief has credible evidence that the citizen is dangerous or emotionally disturbed. The restrictions on carry in the bill are irrational and dangerous and should be modified to allow carry in restaurants and on public transportation and the 1000 foot zone provision should be eliminated. Even then, the bill would be among the most restrictive in the country.
26 Id. at 38.
27 Many states, including Virginia, allow licensed carriers into all government buildings except courthouses and schools. Licensed carry is allowed on the Virginia State Capitol grounds and inside the buildings on Capitol Square. There have been no firearm incidents by citizens carrying legally there.