D.C. Bans Guns with Red Tape
The District of Columbia has made it legal for residents to own a handgun after being so ordered by the United States Supreme Court. But they’re not making it easy.
The plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that overturned Washington’s strict 32-year-old handgun ban was among the first to arrive as the city started registering firearms. Dick Heller showed up early Thursday at the police department, but he’s still upset with the city even after winning his case. He says its strict new rules for handguns still violate the spirit of the court’s ruling defending the constitutional right to bear arms.
They allow handguns to be kept in the home if they’re used only for self-defense and carry fewer than 12 rounds of ammunition.
Gun owners can only register one weapon in the first 90 days. Police say the permitting process could take weeks or months.
Months? How so? Well, there are some not-so-minor bureaucratic hurdles to clear. There are no gun shops in the District and, as previously reported, zoning regulations preclude gun shops. But there’s a workaround: Residents can buy their guns in another state, so long as they have the proper DC paperwork and have the guns shipped to an authorized DC location. Or, should I say, the authorized location:
Charles Sykes is that licensed dealer, and he’s told WTOP he’s willing to handle the transfer of handguns for residents, just has he has for security companies since 1994. “On a low key basis,” Sykes says. “By appointment.”
Inconvenient, no? You don’t know the half of it.
But Sykes has a problem. He lost his lease and has had to relocate, and the District has refused to issue him the necessary permit to open his new office. Sykes told the Washington CityPaper he thinks the city is withholding his Certificate of Occupancy for “political” reasons. He may be right.
A spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which issues the permit, could not say what the status of his application is, or why it was being withheld in time for this report. Vince Gray (D-At-Large), chairman of the D.C. Council, says he wants to make it as hard as possible for gun stores to open. “First of all, I don’t want them anywhere,” Gray says, “but if we’re going to have them, we’ll look at things, like keeping them away from schools and churches.”
No worries, though: They’ve made provisions for illegal guns, just not legal ones:
At 7 a.m. Thursday, the Metropolitan Police Department will open its doors at Headquarters and begin taking applications for permits. If you already own an illegal handgun, you’re in luck. Because of the 90 day amnesty program, you can bring your gun (unloaded and wrapped up) to the police and apply for a permit. If, like most people, you don’t have a gun, you can begin the permit process, but good luck getting a gun. Without a gun store, or someone to transfer the gun, it won’t happen legally.
So, what’s an honest citizen to do? Go back to court, of course. But not on the above issues, oddly.
Under terms of the emergency law, passed earlier this week by the D.C. Council, residents must obtain a city-issued handgun permit and may keep handguns only in their homes for self-defense purposes. The permits require every gun owner to pass a written test and vision exam, submit the weapons for ballistic testing and offer proof of residency.
The provisions still rank as some of the toughest in the nation. But perhaps the most controversial aspect of the law, gun rights advocates say, mandates that gun owners keep their weapons unloaded, disassembled or secured with trigger locks, unless they face a “threat of immediate harm.”
The National Rifle Association has signaled it also will challenge the new D.C. regulation, describing the law as extreme and in “complete defiance of the Supreme Court’s decision.” “The current D.C. proposal requires the complete cooperation of the criminal,” NRA spokesman Andrew Akulanandum. “It would require the criminal to call and tell you when they plan to come and attack you.”
Photo: Jason Reed, Reuters via USA Today.