Gura Asks Court to Hold District in Contempt in Palmer v. DC Decision


In the ongoing legal battle to force the District of Columbia City Council to respect the Second Amendment rights of district residents, attorney Alan Gura has filed a request Tuesday that the city government be held in contempt. US District Judge Frederick Scullin is “weighing a request to hold the District in contempt of court for enacting new gun laws that are so restrictive as to be out of compliance with his order to allow for concealed carry in the city.” Gura argued that “despite passing new laws that allow for concealed carry, the District has not lived up to its court-ordered obligation because the plaintiffs he is representing are still unable to obtain gun-carry permits under the city’s strict regulations.” Which was, of course, the point . . .

As reported by

“There is no way in the world my clients can obtain a license to carry a gun,” Mr. Gura said in court Thursday, noting that they are unable to prove they are under a specific threat as required by the regulations.

In response to the Judge’s ruling that the District enact laws enabling residents to bear arms outside the home, city council enacted a “may issue” law that requires applicants to undergo 18 hours of training AND demonstrate a “special need” for armed self defense.

Judge Scullin asked the lawyers for the District on Thursday whether they had any statistics to show that restricting gun-carry to only people who can demonstrate a special need would enhance public safety.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Saindon said he did not have any such statistics. He argued that, by establishing a licensing scheme, the city was complying with the judge’s orders.

Scullin gave the District until December 4 to show why they should not be held in contempt. Gura has until December 11 to counter their filing.

So far, the Kafkaesque bureaucratic hurdles the District erected when they enacted their “emergency” legislation in a half-ass attempt to comply with Sculling’s ruling have had the desired effect.

Although gun owners were able to begin the application process Oct. 22, no permits have been issued, according to Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Lt. Sean Conboy. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has 90 days to determine whether an application should be approved, at which point applicants are required to take firearms training. However, the department has yet to approve any instructors to teach the required course, Lt. Conboy said.

Watch this space.


  1. avatar ClayinUT says:

    What was that about “shall not be infringed”?

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      *subject to, eh, certain provisos

      Didn’t you see the asterix in the Constitution?

    2. avatar Jus Bill says:

      As amended.

    3. avatar O-Hebi says:

      I have been saying this for years, and I will say it again, The LEGAL DEFINITION OF THE WORD SHALL needs to be reverted to its original meaning of a hard command. Now, legally, the word, like literally, has two definitions with one contradicting the other. If we spent money, time, and effort on that endeavor the 2nd Amendment would actually, and unequivocally, mean what it says.

  2. avatar NYC2AZ says:

    With several circuit courts split on shall issue v may issue, I have to wonder if The Nine are waiting for a specific case to hear?

    1. avatar fishydude says:

      Unlikely any loser on the pro “may issue” side will appeal to SCOTUS. They don’t want SCOTUS overturning all “may issue” laws like the one in MA.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        D.C. has appealed the decision in this case to the D.C.Circuit, claiming that it is the public interest to ban the carrying of firearms inside city limits. Since this is a ban and not a “may issue” or “shall issue” case, it is more like Moore v. Madigan (Illinois ban) and less like the three “may issue” cases it has turned down to date. It does present a nice “right to carry outside the home” scenario, but it is hard to say at this point whether that narrow question will interest SCOTUS. (The best pending case for Supreme Court review on the “issue” issue is Peruta, but after State Attorney General Harris was prevented from intervening, the possibility of it (or its companion case Richards v. Prieto) reaching the Supreme Court is significantly diminished.)

  3. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

    WHen next year’s federal budget is moved under all of the separate authorizations (something President Obama-Soetoro has had Harry “Palms” Reid avoid), I would not fund $$ to DC for this licensing scheme if it does not strictly comply with the court’s order

    1. avatar Roymond says:

      You’re too soft: I’d drop funding for the city council.

      1. avatar bontai Joe says:

        You’re too soft, I’d drop funding for the whole district.

        1. avatar Phil COV says:

          You’re too soft. I’d drop the city… off a cliff… with a hammer.

        2. avatar B says:

          And nothing of value would be lost.

        3. avatar SteveInCO says:

          I’m rather fond of the Lincoln, Jefferson and Vietnam memorials, and the Smithsonian.

          Other than that, yeah.

        4. avatar sagebrushracer says:

          so, just the people then? keeping the monuments and buildings but fire the current staff and vote in some new ones? sigh, a guy can dream i guess….

  4. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    “Judge Scullin asked the lawyers for the District on Thursday whether they had any statistics to show that restricting gun-carry to only people who can demonstrate a special need would enhance public safety.”

    This line of questioning/thinking is irrelevant. As we so often say, rights are not based on social utility.

    If law enforcement could search anyone, anything, anywhere, any time, for any reason or no reason, they would be sure to find and remove more criminals from the streets and enhance public safety. But we don’t allow that because it infringes on our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

    Protip: while the Fourth Amendment allows for “reasonable” searches and seizures, the Second Amendment does not allow for “reasonable” restrictions. It is carte blanche — shall NOT be infringed, period.

    1. avatar Roymond says:

      No, it isn’t. What the question is aiming at is that the government, in order to restrict exercise of any right, has to prove that the restriction serves a legitimate or compelling government interest. If the law as written can’t be shown to serve any government interest at all, it fails even the least restrictive standard of review. If the District can’t show definitively that their way of writing the law increases public safety in a clear and evident manner, then he can deep-six it without needing any further argument from anyone. I think that’s the reason for the question: he’s gathering ammunition for holding them in contempt, because if they can’t show a clear and evident advantage to writing the law that way, they’re screwed.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      Even if he agrees with you he would want his judgement to be strong even to those that do not… and there are a lot who do not agree with you.

  5. avatar fishydude says:

    Exactly what “may issue” means. It means that if the ciuty council orders the police not to issue any permits, the police chief can’t issue any regardless the passing of every obstacle put in the way.
    MA is a may issue state too. The local police chiefs have absolute authority to deny every carry permit application without providing any reason for denial. So whether one gets a permit is up to the whims of the police chief or the local city council which gives the police chief orders.
    My brother-in-law is lucky to live in a town with an honest, constitutional police chief. He has what is considered the “Holy Grail” of carry permits. An unrestricted carry. But the other state laws add restrictions by limiting what he can by. He can only carry a pistol with a 10 round magazine unless said magazine was made before 1999.
    But people that live in Newton can’t get carry permits because the city council and the police chief are anti-gun.
    We can only hope that a case gets to SCOTUS that overturns all “may issue” statutes. But the anti-gun crowd is unlikely to appeal beyond a district court if they lose on “may issue” because they know they will lose at SCOTUS.
    Next cases have to go after the unreasonable state level regulations that limit what a consumer can buy.
    Why can I buy and FNS9 with a 17 round mag in NC but my brother-in-law can’t even buy and FNS9 in MA even with a small 10 round mag due to state 10# trigger mandate and other regulations?
    The VP9 is a very nice pistol. But my MA friends can’t buy one.
    Time to end these asinine state level regulations that do not make anyone safer.

    1. avatar Steve in MD says:

      A ten pound trigger? Yikes. I thought MD was bad.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        Apex sells a lot of trigger kits in MA; Glock doesn’t sell guns in MA because the AG’s phony “safety” regulations prohibit them even though Glocks are on the MA roster of approved (drop safe) firearms.

        This state is deep blue. I live in a red town and have an unrestricted LTC, but things are still tough.

  6. avatar ThomasR says:

    It’s not about public “safety”. Gun control laws are about control. By allowing the “great unwashed” the power of effective self-defense by carrying a gun, the government gives up a very effective method of control.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      And government becomes less relevant.

  7. avatar Roll says:

    Why do the antigunners hate America so much?

    1. avatar Phil COV says:

      Many of them hate themselves, so everything else translates the same.

  8. avatar Chip Bennett says:

    Keep fighting the good fight, Gura!

    Eventually, SCOTUS is going to be forced to take up a May-Issue case. (Yet another reason that I’m in favor of federal reciprocity of state resident-issued carry permits. It will force an Equal Protection challenge on May Issue.)

    1. avatar Roscoe says:

      Hopefully before it gets packed with another zealous anti gun appointee.

  9. avatar MamaLiberty says:

    Giving the feds total control of our carry status is insane. Does anyone think that every state would not soon look exactly like Washington DC? Do you think that any of the 9 Nazguls are truly interested in what is right, regardless of the “constitution?” The Nazgul don’t work for us… they work for the controllers in power.

    When some people are given power over other people, against their will, tyranny is the inevitable result.

    1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

      Giving the feds total control of our carry status is insane.

      I know there are some (very few that I’ve seen) calling for a federal license. I agree; that’s a terrible idea, and unconstitutional.

      Federal reciprocity, however, is a fantastic idea.

      1. avatar MamaLiberty says:

        What, pray tell, is the difference? Federal control of the “driver’s license” is complete now… the “Real ID” is as intrusive and controlling as it gets. All the government needs is another excuse to control more of our lives than they already do.

        “Receprocity” is the excuse… federal “license” = control is the reality.

        1. avatar Chip Bennett says:

          What, pray tell, is the difference?

          Federal licensing: the federal government sets the criteria and methods for licensing, and forces all States to follow that defined standard

          Federal reciprocity: the federal government mandates that any state that issues a carry permit to the residents of its own state must recognize the carry permits of any non-residents issued by their state of residence.

          Basically, federal reciprocity means that, if Illinois offers Illinois residents a carry permit, then Illinois must honor the Indiana permit issued to Indiana residents. No more, no less. And since all 50 states now issue resident permits, it would mean that anyone who has a permit issued by their state of residence can legally carry in every other state.

          The federal government doesn’t get involved with the permit requirements or anything else.

          Why is that a good thing? Because when the residents of Maryland, New Jersey, etc. see non-residents exercising their RKBA, when they themselves as state residents are denied that right, they’ll rightfully demand that their state restore their rights.

        2. avatar Chip Bennett says:


          I understand Federal government scope creep, but a narrowly tailored bill, such as the one passed by the house and currently languishing in the senate, would leave no inherent room for the federal government to claim authority to set licensing requirements.

  10. avatar Aaron says:

    Well, now is the time to contact your new Senate and Congress to demand that they put national reciprocity on their “to do” list. Strike while the iron is hot.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      And watch your Congress’ inaction.

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    It’s my experience that courts and judges do not like to be told to go fvck themselves by anybody, including (maybe especially) by another branch of government. Gura has a shot at this.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Let me add to that comment a bit. D.C. told the judge that he had no jurisdiction to review the new law because D.C. has already filed a notice of appeal, and further argued that if Gura wanted to complain about the new law, he had to file a new lawsuit. Gura’s response was the contempt filing, where he argued that the court’s ruling (a) overturned the existing ban and (b) allowed the city to pass a new law in compliance with constitutional standards (as described by the court as requiring a method whereby the average citizen could lawfully carry in public for the purposes of self defense as dictated by Peruta). The city has not requested a stay, and so the court can enforce its ruling even while the case is on appeal.

      1. avatar Tt78 says:

        If DC is held in contempt, does DC default to constitutional carry?

        1. avatar Jus Bill says:

          No, then DC files another frivolous, legally-incoherent motion, thereby delaying a decision another 21, 30 or 90 days. Until the court loses patience or the Mayor is arrested on Federal charges.

        2. avatar Hannibal says:

          The mayor will not be arrested his actions will simply be null and void.

      2. avatar Gene says:

        Contempt : DC is like Contempt : Holder. Toothless and a mere gesture.

  12. avatar Mr Pierogie says:

    This is exactly what I said would happen. I knew that the ‘best’ option for the gun-hating DC would be to copy what NJ has been doing for years with justifiable need and the may (not) issue policy, and that’s exactly what they did. Remember, the supremes have held that ‘some’ restrictions by the states are OK, and we have all seen that the SCOTUS didn’t want to take on the ‘justifiable need’ case that originated in NJ. So I don’t know what Gura, blessed be his name, can do, if anything. It’s not looking good.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      It’s called “pressure.” It’s working.

  13. avatar Hannibal says:

    This Gura guy gets it.

  14. avatar stateisevil says:

    You have a natural right to carry concealed or openly without a license. You only have a Constitutional right to bear arms OPENLY. Thus, the court could legitimately restrict or ban concealed carry, an established privilege in the history of most states, and in the history of the federal constitution.

    1. avatar Delmarva Chip says:

      As far as I know, the US constitution doesn’t restrict the right to bear arms. It just says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Not the right to keep and openly bear arms shall not be infringed.

      I’ll admit that I’m not sure of everything that the courts have said historically on it, but I’m not sure where you get the idea that it’s OK to ban concealed weapons. That certainly does not appear to be a power granted to the federal government. Unless I misread Article I Section 9.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      Following the logic in Peruta, if a place bans concealed carry, it must permit open carry, and vice versa.

    3. avatar rlc2 says:

      Curious what you think of the yale law article here. Some comments after are interesting.

  15. avatar I_Like_Pie says:

    I’ll say it again as I do every time this guy shows up.

    Folks – Gura is my hero. He has done a LOT for us in the past 10 years

  16. avatar RLC2 says:

    The DC Council wrote sucb restrictive guidelines that few would pass, and just like San Diego Sheriff policy, you have to PROVE you are threatened before APPLYING, and ONLY if approved, after weeks of fees, fingerprints and FBI check, the 16 hours of classez, and a qual test at range, can you be issued a permit.

    And here is an interesting REAL WORLD example of how it worked, in San Diego.

  17. avatar RLC2 says:

    Now, IIRC, Judge Scullin cited Peruta, in his decision, in re: instructing the DC Council how to rewrite their law.One would expect that the key point of Peruta would have been honored, that no other justification to apply is needed, than SELF DEFENSE.

    I find it remarkable, but sadly not surprising, that the apparatchiki of DC are putting on the same Imperial pose as the Czar of Executive Action himself…and not only disregarding the obvious intentions and guidance of the judge, but insulting him, his Court, and the Rule of Law, by claiming the appeal makes his authority invalid.

    Who’s got the popcorn?

  18. avatar John P. Squibob says:

    Why is it that when contempt proceedings are held against the state, that the courts are reluctant to place the officers of the state in personal contempt, and have them thrown in jail for their contempt? But Joe Citizen can wind up in jail?

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      ’cause life. ain’t. fair.

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