Heller (and Heller) Update


The Washington Post reports that Dick Heller, whose lawsuit resulted in the Supreme Court decision overturning the District of Columbia's gun ban, yesterday tried to register his .22-caliber revolver, which is one of the few handguns D.C. does not consider a "machine gun," but was turned away because he did not bring the weapon with him. Today he is trying again, having been assured that a) he has to bring the gun (kept for him by a friend in Maryland) to the police station in order to register it and b) he won't be arrested for carrying an unregistered gun if he does so.

According to D.C.'s reading of its "machine gun" ban, Heller's .45-caliber pistol has to remain in Maryland, since it, like any other handgun capable of accepting a clip magazine that holds more than 12 rounds, qualifies as a machine gun. Dane von Breichenruchardt, president of the Bill of Rights Foundation, calls this restriction "foolishness" and notes that D.C.'s leaders are "trying to find as many ways as they can to make the [registration] process as difficult and unattractive as they can." He predicts the city will find itself back in court soon. "Mayor Fenty promised us he would follow the letter and spirit of the law," he says. "He has done neither."

According to the Post, so far Heller is the only D.C. resident who has tried to register a handgun. One major barrier, in addition to the city's burdensome regulations and uncertainty about the risk of arrest, is the complete absence of legal gun dealers:

Because, under federal law, buyers can purchase handguns only in the states where they live, D.C. residents cannot legally purchase and take delivery of firearms until a licensed firearms dealer sets up shop in the District. Officials said that one dealer is in the process of reactivating his license and that others will probably obtain licenses eventually.

Eventually, it will be possible for D.C. residents to buy pistols in other states and have dealers in those states ship the guns to dealers in the District for delivery.