Will D.C. Replace a Handgun Ban With Prohibitive Regulations?


Yesterday the District of Columbia unveiled new firearm rules that are meant to comply with the Supreme Court's recent ruling overturning D.C.'s 32-year-old handgun ban. The proposed legislation makes an exception to the ban for handguns kept in the home for self-defense, and it "clarifies that no carry license is required inside the home." It also "clarifies" the storage rule for firearms, saying a gun can legally be unlocked and loaded "while it is being used against [a]reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm to a person." Otherwise "firearms in the home must be stored unloaded and either disassembled [or] secured with a trigger lock, gun safe, or similar device." The mention of gun safes is new and, depending on the kind of safe, could allow faster retrieval of a weapon in an emergency. But the requirement that even guns in safes be kept unloaded seems like an unreasonable impediment to self-defense that could be open to challenge.

The city continues to maintain that "most semiautomatic pistols" remain illegal under D.C.'s "machine gun" ban, which bizarrely covers not just automatic weapons but "any firearm which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily converted or restored to shoot…more than 12 shots without manual reloading," even if each trigger pull fires just one round. As I pointed out last month, there is no shortage of pistols that fire 12 or fewer rounds, but I don't know how many of them "can be readily converted" to fire more than that. If the city claims any handgun that can accept (or be modified to accept) a magazine holding more than 12 rounds is prohibited, would that cover "most semiautomatic pistols"? All handguns except "revolvers and derringers," as the Violence Policy Center argues?

Meanwhile, the procedure for legally owning whichever handguns are allowed sounds pretty onerous:

a. A District resident who seeks to register a handgun must obtain an application form from MPD's Firearms Registration Section and take it to a firearms dealer for assistance in completing it.

b. The applicant must submit photos, proof of residency and proof of good vision (such as a driver's license or doctor's letter), and pass a written firearms test.

c. If the applicant is successful on the test, s(he) must pay registration fees and submit to fingerprinting. MPD will file one set of fingerprints and submit the other to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis and criminal background check.

d. MPD will notify the applicant whether all registration requirements are satisfied. At that point, the applicant returns to the Firearms Registration Section to complete the process and receive MPD's seal on the application.

e. The applicant takes his or her completed application to a licensed firearm dealer to take delivery of the pistol. If the dealer is outside the District, the dealer transports the pistol to a licensed dealer in the District to complete the transaction.

f. The applicant takes the pistol to the Firearms Registration Section for ballistics testing. When testing is complete, the applicant may retrieve the pistol and take it home.

The question is whether D.C. will make it so difficult to possess guns and use them in self-defense that it will end up back in court on the losing end of another Second Amendment lawsuit.

[Thanks to John Kluge for the tip.]