Our report on the gun-free zones in the District of Columbia has gotten a long front-page article in the Washington Times. The Washington Free Beacon and Fox News have also run a similar story. The article discusses DC response: “The law says it ‘shall not apply to a person legally licensed to carry a firearm in the District of Columbia.’” But among the problems with this is that it then makes no sense for DC to even include concealed handgun permit holders in the enhanced penalty section. The fact that section says these penalties don’t apply to permit holders “if” indicates that the penalties do apply when “not if” is the case.
. . . The city’s “gun-free zones” law places restrictions on carrying firearms within 1,000 feet of a school, college, day care center, playground, library, public housing complex and other public gathering spots.
The list is so broad that nearly every city block would qualify as a gun-free zone, said John R. Lott Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, who released a map Tuesday showing the parts of the city he said would clearly be affected by the 1,000-foot restriction.
“They’re just making it so it’s actually impossible for somebody to legally carry in the District of Columbia,” Mr. Lott said. “My own guess is they probably did it on purpose. I can’t get into people’s minds to know, but there’s no other law that’s drafted anywhere near similar to what’s in here.” . . .
The city’s laws designate areas 1,000 feet from most public gathering spaces such as schools and parks to be gun-free zones, as long as they are identified as such by signage. The law reads: “Any person illegally carrying a gun within a gun free zone shall be punished by a fine up to twice that otherwise authorized to be imposed, by a term of imprisonment up to twice that otherwise authorized to be imposed, or both.” The law says it “shall not apply to a person legally licensed to carry a firearm in the District of Columbia.”
A city police spokeswoman said the law “is a penalty enhancement — not a unique crime — for someone who is illegally carrying a firearm. That would not apply to someone with a valid license to carry.”
But Emily Miller, who chronicled her ordeal through the permitting process to own a firearm in the city in The Washington Times and later in her book “Emily Gets Her Gun,” said she doesn’t trust that assurance.
The D.C. Council “wrote a carry law that makes me study a map every time I move 10 feet,” said Ms. Miller. “Obviously, their intent was to make it as hard as possible for those of us who have carry permits to legally carry our guns in [the District] for self-defense. The criminals roam freely and don’t abide by the absurd carry restrictions, so those of us who carry guns for self-defense should be able to do so as well.”
Nelson Lund, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, said he too would be wary of carrying a gun in the city.
The law “is so bafflingly drafted that I suppose it’s possible to read it as only an enhanced-penalty provision, but it’s awfully easy to read it differently too,” Mr. Lund said. “I don’t think I would want to exercise my rights under the Second Amendment while that provision is sitting there like that.”
Whatever the interpretation of the gun-free zones, analysts said, another part of the law has a long list of places where carrying is illegal, including city office buildings; the building, grounds and parking lots of schools; public transportation; hospitals; any place where alcohol is served; sports arenas; and the National Mall and other federal property.
Carrying a firearm in a private residence or house of worship is also presumed illegal. . . .
From the Washington Free Beacon:
. . . Lott wrote in his report. “Technically, D.C. allows permitted concealed carry, but the law is written in such a way that it would ban permit holders from carrying in virtually the entire District. Even the 124 people who are legally permitted to carry are really currently banned from carrying virtually everywhere.”
Lott said the legality of carrying in these areas hinges on the interpretation of a confusing section on exceptions to the gun-free zones in question. “The provisions of this section shall not apply to a person legally licensed to carry a firearm in the District of Columbia who lives or works within 1,000 feet of a gun-free zone,” the code reads.
Lott said it’s unclear who this section exempts from the disputed gun-free zones but “the most likely interpretation of the law is that you can carry in gun-free zones that include your home or business, but not in other gun-free zones that are spread across the District. . . .