District officials have suggested Maryland's restrictive handgun permit policy might provide the best model for their city, as they attempt to enact new gun control measures , but Rep. Thomas Massie thinks they should look to Pennsylvania or New Hampshire.
The Kentucky Republican, who wants to wipe out all of the District's local firearm restrictions — effectively making the city one of the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the nation — said Thursday that both states have "really good constitutional concealed carry laws."
"So I would recommend they go, since they would like to be like a state, they should go look at a state that's got this right — or they could use Kentucky," he added, "but frankly, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire have the better laws." New Hampshire and Kentucky are among the 31 states that allow the open carrying of a handgun without any license or permit, although in some cases the gun must be unloaded, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Open carry of handguns without a license is permitted in all parts of Pennsylvania except Philadelphia. Both New Hampshire and Pennsylvania are "shall issue" states when it comes to concealed carry permits, meaning law enforcement must issue a license if an applicant meets certain qualifications.
Under Massie's proposal, by contrast, critics believe police would have no power to stop people from carrying assault weapons, including loaded sniper rifles, around D.C.
D.C. Council leaders have indicated they are looking to Maryland, where carrying a handgun outside the home, whether open or concealed, requires a permit. Law enforcement may issue a permit if applicants provide a “good and substantial reason” reason for wanting to carry.
Massie has been glib since news broke of the July 26 ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia, in which Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. wrote that he was stopping enforcement of D.C.'s ban on carrying handguns in public “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism.
Since the ruling, Lanier has indicated her biggest concern is not the potential for crime, but securing the most sensitive parts of the nation's capital, including places that host foreign dignitaries and heads of state, the president, the first family and the vice president.
Massie rejects the idea that D.C. has a unique need to limit where people can carry handguns.
"Did the leaders of the city not understand that criminals are out there right now with guns when the motorcades go by?" he said. "I mean, I think we would be safer if law-abiding, honest citizens also had guns and not just the criminals, because those guns are out there. [They should] go check their own crime statistics if they think they're not."
Massie was in the room for a July 17 press conference when Mayor Vincent Gray said violent crime had fallen by 13 percent, and robberies were down by 24 percent in the city compared to the same period last year.
According to crime statistics provided by MPD, D.C.'s homicide rate is up 30.2 percent from one year ago. The city has recorded 69 homicides, compared to 53 at this time last year. In 2013, the District had 104 homicides, including the 12 victims of the Navy Yard shooting. In 2012, the total was a record low 88. Homicide rates have been on a downward trend over the past 20 years. In 1994 there were 399.
Critics have suggested Massie should introduce legislation to allow armed visitors on Capitol Hill, since he is intent on letting more people carry handguns in the District.
"That's a red herring," Massie said, "because here in the Capitol we have armed guards at every door and metal detectors. It's an environment that you can't recreate on the streets of Washington, D.C., and if you could it might be safe."