New Lawsuit Reveals Big Problems With D.C. Carry Laws

A Washington, D.C man is suing over the revocation of his concealed carry license, and the troubling case provides plenty of evidence that the city is still doing everything it can to curtail the Second Amendment rights of residents, even after federal courts ruled that the city’s “good cause” standard for issuing licenses violated the Constitution.

Allen Whitaker, a single parent raising two daughters in the District, is a legal gun owner who’s had a valid concealed carry license since November of 2018. A few months ago, however, Whitaker was informed by the Metropolitan Police Department that his license to carry was being revoked. Not because of any conviction or even arrest, but because of a simple police contact with Whitaker back in April.

According to his lawsuit, Whitaker, along with his girlfriend and his cousin, had gone to a gun range in Upper Marlboro, Maryland on April 29th, and as they left the range he stored his firearm in a lockbox in the trunk of his car, but kept his empty holster on his hip. The couple stopped to pick up Whitaker’s daughter from her mother’s home, and then made a brief detour to a nearby convenience store so she could get something to drink.

A verbal altercation between some guys was taking place as Whitaker pulled in, but he parked away from the confrontation and went inside to buy some water. As he was walking back to the car, however, a Prince George’s County police cruiser pulled in front of him, and the officer got out of the car and pointed a gun at Whitaker and his cousin, ordering them to put their hands above their heads or he would shoot. When the officer patted Whitaker down, he found the empty holster and then placed Whitaker in handcuffs.

Arriving officers then searched Whitaker’s car (without his consent, according to his attorney), but couldn’t find his gun, even after he told them where it was located. Eventually Whitaker himself had to pull the lockbox out of the trunk and present his firearm to police, who confiscated the gun (and have yet to return it).

Whitaker’s girlfriend, meanwhile was found to be in possession of a small amount of marijuana, though neither he nor his girlfriend were arrested or cited for any criminal violation. Still, when Whitaker applied for to register a new firearm, since his Glock had not been returned to him by Prince George’s police, he was told that not only was his registration permit being denied, but his concealed carry license was being revoked as well.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, the revocation was “due to exhibiting a  propensity to violence or instability that may reasonable [sic] render the person’s possession of a concealed pistol a danger to the person or another[.]”

To buttress their claims, the MPD cited Whitaker’s “extensive” criminal history, which in reality amounts to a couple of minor infractions for misdemeanor marijuana possession and having speakers that were too loud back in 2007. Whitaker was once considered a “suspect” in an assault, but it looks like no charges were ever brought, and a 2007 charge of carrying a concealed knife in Ohio was dismissed as well. 

Most importantly, the MPD knew about every one of these incidents when they approved Whitaker to own and carry a firearm. Only after the stop by Prince George’s police did they move to revoke his carry license. After Whitaker appealed the revocation, he received another letter from the MPD in February of this year, now claiming that his license had been stripped from him for an entirely new reason. 

In addition to discovering new information about Mr. Whitaker’s April  2019 conduct, the revocation decision was the result of a deliberate  and principled change in the Chief s position on what it means to have  “exhibited a propensity for violence or instability that may reasonably  render the person’s possession of a concealed pistol a danger to the  person or another,” under D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2335.1 (d). 

The Chief revised his interpretation of the regulation as the result of  an incident involving another CPL holder that occurred after  

Mr. Whitaker’s CPL had been issued. 

* * * 

Under the Chief s new interpretation of the regulation, conduct that is violent or criminal demonstrating low self-control, regardless of  whether it results in a criminal conviction, may be grounds for denial,  revocation, or suspension of a CPL on the basis of unsuitability. 

In other words, the city revised its “suitability” standard, broadening its scope in the process and giving the chief even more subjective power to determine whether a D.C. resident gets to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Even an encounter with police that doesn’t lead to an arrest, much less a conviction, can now apparently be grounds to deprive individuals of their right to bear arms in our nation’s capitol.

Mr. Whitaker was not a participant in the argument that  occurred at the gas station that day. He did not engage in any violence or  threatened violence or unstable conduct. Yet the P.G. County police handcuffed  Mr. Whitaker and detained him and his family for a total of three hours, only to ultimately release them without filing any charge. Further, the police seized  Mr. Whitaker’s lawfully registered handgun and a small, legal amount of  marijuana that belonged to Mr. Whitaker’s girlfriend without any legal justification  for doing so.  

In fact, Mr. Whitaker was a victim of illegal conduct by the P.G. County  Police on April 29, 2019. Yet he acted calmly and followed all directions while  subject to an unlawful three-hour detention. He exhibited no violent or criminal  behavior throughout the encounter, nor any behavior that demonstrates low self control. 

Whether Washington, D.C. officials want to admit it or not, their new suitability standard is likely going to have a disproportionate impact on black residents like Mr. Whitaker. According to studies, black drivers are more likely to be pulled over by police and more likely to have their vehicle searched than white drivers. If a simple encounter with a police officer that doesn’t lead to any criminal charges can still be the basis of denial for a concealed carry license, then it’s almost guaranteed that more black D.C. residents are either going to be denied their license to carry or have it revoked, as in Whitaker’s case, simply by virtue of them being subject to more police stops.

Leslie McAdoo Gordon, the D.C. attorney representing Allen Whitaker, told me that when she heard her client’s story for the first time, she was “appalled”, and thought ”this is wrong, and we need to do something about that.”

I agree, and I wish Whitaker well in his fight to regain his right to carry in the face of Washington, D.C.’s unconscionable decision to revoke his license to carry over a non-incident.

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