Bad day in courts for Beltway progressives

Both the Obama administration and the District of Columbia went to court today to defend themselves from lawsuits over policies that arguably overreach their authority — and neither came out unscathed. The district tried to get a stay on a recent ruling that overturned a gun-license prerequisite that made the district the sole arbiter of a “good reason” for a resident to exercise the right to bear arms, and … it didn’t go well, says the Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski:

In a ruling issued on May 18th, Judge Frederick J. Scullin said the District’s requirement that applicants for a gun carry permit demonstrate a “good reason” to carry a gun violated the Second Amendment. The DC Attorney General’s Office filed a request on May 26 for an immediate administrative stay in order to avoid issuing permits to those denied under the “good reason” clause while they filed an appeal.

Thurday’s order rejects that request and schedules a July 7 hearing on whether to grant a long-term stay pending the city’s appeal of the May 18 decision.

The original ruling made it clear what Scullin thought of the status quo. “For all intents and purposes,” Scullin wrote in his decision to toss the statutory restriction, “this requirement makes it impossible for the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens to obtain licenses to carry handguns in public for self-defense, thereby depriving them of their Second Amendment right to bear arms.” The argument for a stay was that the city would suffer irreparable harm from having the statute discarded without preparation, but that was also the city’s argument to keep the law in the first place. Scullin pointed out the logical fallacies in the argument:

The fact that an individual may be able to demonstrate a greater need for self-protection, and therefore meets the “good reason”/”proper reason” requirement, does not indicate, in any way, whether that person is less likely to misuse handguns or may be less dangerous. See Drake, 724 F.3d at 454 (Hardiman, C.J., dissenting). Nor does the District of Columbia’s “good 12 reason”/”proper reason” requirement make it less likely that those who meet this requirement will accidently shoot themselves or others or engage in criminal activity than those who cannot meet this requirement. See id. The fact that a person may have a greater need for self-protection says nothing about how limiting the carrying of handguns to such individuals would result in a reduction of risk to other members of the public or reduce violent crime. Is the Court to conclude that people who do not have a heightened need for self-protection are more likely to commit violent crimes?

Still, the city has an opportunity to argue for a stay in July, although on this reasoning it’s difficult to see how Scullin would agree to issue one. And they’re not doing any worse than the Obama administration, which tried to get a judge to throw out a lawsuit against executive amnesty brought by the House of Representatives for a lack of standing. Reuters reports that Judge Rosemary Collyer “blasted” the lawyer representing the White House for lacking any compelling argument to assert that the President could act on his own without any judicial recourse for the legislature to check his power:

Justice Department lawyers argue that the House lacks standing to sue, citing a section of U.S. law that means the House would have to prove it has been directly harmed.

“So it is your position that if the House of Representatives affirmatively voted not to fund something … then that vote can be ignored by the administration, because after all, no one can sue them?” she asked.

McElvain argued that the merits of the case were not being discussed at the hearing, and that any perceived injury was “abstract.”

“I’m not asking you to give me your brief. I want you to explain … why it’s not an insult to the Constitution?” Collyer said. …

At another point, Collyer admonished McElvain: “You can’t just shake your head and not deal with the question.”

In the attorney’s defense, that’s pretty much what the White House has done when it’s been pressed on the legality of its approach on executive amnesty, too. They just keep assuring people that they have the authority because Congress has refused to act, and the Sick and Tired Clause of the Constitution gives the executive plenary powers based on his mood. Or something.

This case hasn’t produced a decision yet, not even on standing, which Collyer said will be forthcoming. If the DoJ and White House can’t come up with better answers, things will look poorly indeed. Beltway progressives had better get used to the limitation on government power in all of its contexts, if these exchanges are any kind of portents.