D.C. Bans Guns with Red Tape

By Jason Reed, Reuters Dick Anthony Heller, an armed security guard, sued the District of Columbia after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at his home. 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.”

Statehood now!

Photo:  Jason Reed, Reuters via USA Today.

FILED UNDER: Bureaucracy, Guns and Gun Control, Law and the Courts, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    How does Statehood change anything? Wouldn’t DC as a state have the same laws? As a State, it might not even be subject to the Second Amendment.

  2. James Joyner says:

    PD: I meant it ironically. The District continues to demonstrate that it’s not ready for self-governance.

    But, yes, the 2nd Amendment has been determined to apply to the several states, not just the Federal government and territories.

  3. Fence says:

    the 2nd Amendment has been determined to apply to the several states, not just the Federal government and territories.

    That’s not correct, at least not yet.

  4. JKB says:

    On the upside, DC’s shenanigans will push Congress to pass preemption laws or accept that the rule of US law doesn’t apply in DC if the local yokels don’t like the Constitutions interpretation.

    It will also keep gun control as a hot issue for the election. Instead of ‘see gun control isn’t a big issue since SCOTUS affirmed the individual right to have a gun’, it is ‘see the gun control history of a candidate is critical since the politicians are willing use any bureaucratic means they can think of to ignore any Supreme Court decisions they don’t like.’

    I like this quote “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.”

    That should bring a big bright spotlight to Obama’s past call for no FFL holders within 5 miles of a school; a de facto ban of FFL holders in most US cities. Note: this comment was directed a FFL holder who doesn’t run a retail shop nor accepts walk in business, he only handles the legal delivery of firearms purchased from outside DC by appointment only. A delivery process mandated by the US Congress at the urging of the gun control lobby with the assurance that such “reasonable restrictions” wouldn’t prevent lawful gun purchasers from purchasing a firearm.

  5. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    The 2nd amendment does not apply to cities, states or the federal government. It deliniates a natural right of people, of individuals which shall not be infringed. You do not have to register something you have a RIGHT to have and carry.

  6. Bithead says:

    All this is why I said earlier today that Heller, et all, is no panacea for gun rights, or for that matter, individual rights in general, because it failed to lay out the particulars of what is and is not constitutional as regards firewarms. What we have no is a ruling which will foster a mess of lower court rulings… a reall boon to the lawyers.

  7. sam says:

    But, yes, the 2nd Amendment has been determined to apply to the several states, not just the Federal government and territories.

    Think you’re wrong about this JJ. To my knowlege, the 2nd has yet to be incorporated against the states (via the 14th), and for sure, Heller didn’t do it. But I could be wrong; do you have a citation?

  8. PD Shaw says:

    Sorry, I missed the joke.

    I think the other commentors are right. The Second Amendment does not apply to the states, though the Heller decision implied a willingness to revisit that issue (as has prevously been done with the First Amendment):

    With respect to Cruikshank’s continuing validity on incorporation, a question not presented by this case, we note that Cruikshank also said that the First Amendment did not apply against the States and did not engage in the sort of Fourteenth Amendment inquiry required by our later cases. Our later decisions in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252, 265 (1886) and Miller v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535, 538 (1894), reaffirmed that the Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government.

  9. sam says:

    [T]he Heller decision implied a willingness to revisit that issue (as has prevously been done with the First Amendment)…

    Yeah. I’m looking forward to that opinion (if it ever comes) given Justice Thomas’s (singular) view that the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment is not incorporated against the states:

    In short, the view that the Establishment Clause precludes Congress from legislating respecting religion lacks historical provenance, at least based on the history of which I am aware. Even when enacting laws that bind the States pursuant to valid exercises of its enumerated powers, Congress need not observe strict separation between church and state, or steer clear of the subject of religion. It need only refrain from making laws “respecting an establishment of religion”; it must not interfere with a state establishment of religion. For example, Congress presumably could not require a State to establish a religion any more than it could preclude a State from establishing a religion [my emphasis] .

    Justice Thomas, Concurrence, Cutter vs. Wilkinson, 2005.

    I look forward to his reasoning if the question of the 2nd’s incoporation comes before the Court.

  10. Fred says:

    This puts gun rights in 2008 where voting rights were in 1958.

  11. Les Nessman says:

    JKB:

    ..this comment was directed a FFL holder who doesn’t run a retail shop nor accepts walk in business, he only handles the legal delivery of firearms purchased from outside DC by appointment only..

    Wasn’t there an anti-gunner D.C. activist who got a FFL (to show how ‘easy’ and ‘dangerous’ it was)?
    And isn’t it illegal to get a FFL if you have no intention of using it in the legitimate business of selling and transferring firearms? Maybe D.C. residents should call this joker and demand that he handle the transfer on their purchases. That would be sweet, sweet justice.

    Maybe BATFE should look into this guy. I can’t remember his name.

  12. jc says:

    Out of curiousity, the Supreme Court says it has to meet a “reasonable restriction”. DC flaunts requirements that are blatantly unreasonable and are unwilling to change them. What’s next?

  13. Sam says:

    Did I read this right?

    Owners of illegal guns in D.C., who would have been subject to jail most likely for being caught with one before Heller, can now get those guns permitted easily while those who obeyed the unconstitutional restrictions will now find it nearly impossible to get a legal gun in D.C. even though the SCOTUS just affirmed their right to do so?

    This is amazingly perverse if so.

  14. […] Outside the Beltway, via […]

  15. Broadsword says:

    Statehood, yes. Abuses of power can be fixed by putting more legislators on the streets. Heh.

  16. John C says:

    Anyone else picturing Patrick McGoohan’s Longshanks:

    “The trouble with gun owners… is they want to own guns…”

  17. Simon says:

    This hurts Obama, but to make it stick Senator McCain should book Mr. Heller to speak at the RNC convention to talk about how his constitutional rights are still being violated despite his victory before the Supreme Court.

  18. Letalis Maximus, Esq. says:

    As was/is the case with most civil rights cases, it will probably take the judicial appointment of a Special Master to ensure compliance with the SCOTUS’s ruling in this case.

  19. RobertG says:

    The 2nd amendment does not apply to cities, states or the federal government. It deliniates a natural right of people, of individuals which shall not be infringed. You do not have to register something you have a RIGHT to have and carry.

    Posted by Zelsdorf Ragshaft III

    I am happy to see there are other persons out there who have indeed read our history and the development of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Just an awful lot our our people get their history from some rather dishonest books, movies and TV shows.

    D.C.s onerous and dishonest licensing and registration process is just flat out wrong. It appears to be allowed to a degree by the recent Supreme Court Ruling. I imagine the Court put that language in to mollify the weakling Justice Kennedy.But the process is still an infringement on the citizens of D.C.

    Phoenix, Arizona has a population about three times that of D.C. We have no licensing or registration of firearms, except for concealed carry, and we may carry open almost anywhere. Yet our murder rate is far lower; why is that? Could it be that the bad guy in D.C. knows his victims will be defenseless while in Phoenix he may well get shot?

    Honest people do not need to know other honest people’s business including whether they own guns.

  20. joe says:

    This was the obvious outcome, this needs to be left to the legislature and not to nine oligarchs. People’s lives will be threatened and police and criminal courts won’t know what to do.

  21. RobertG says:

    This was the obvious outcome, this needs to be left to the legislature and not to nine oligarchs. People’s lives will be threatened and police and criminal courts won’t know what to do.

    Posted by joe

    We wish it COULD be left to the legislature, City Council, but they blew it. They passed a patently Unconstitutional restriction on the Peoples’ Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Four and a half of those oligarchs got it wrong by denying that Right; they were being dishonest and not merely mistaken. The half oligarch being Kennedy.

    The legislature, councils and such do not have the authority to disband those portions of our Constitution they do not like. That is why we call it a Constitution.”People’s lives will be threatened“. And how safe are those people now in a city with the nations harshest gun laws? Not very; Mayor Fenty and friends have given the criminals free reign. No, the police can not protect you, they can only respond after they are called IF the bad guy lets you call.

    Trust yourself and your fellow citizens; you have your best interest at heart. The Elitist officials in the world generally don’t. Regardless of what you see on TV there are all kinds of policemen who support the People’s Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Thousands of them teach gun safety and home defense and belong to that terrible, evil NRA. Trust yourself joe.

  22. […] D.C. Bans Guns with Red Tape 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.” […]