- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2008

The first handgun registered in the District after the city’s 32-year ban was a Ruger .357 Magnum that arrived Thursday in blue plastic grocery bag.

The gun was brought to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Firearm Registration Section, in Northwest, shortly after 1 p.m., by a woman from Northwest who asked to be identified only as Amy.

The woman, a third-generation D.C. resident and a mother, told The Washington Times that she strolled past reporters assembled in the lobby and brought the bag to a security guard.

“There’s a revolver in this bag,” the woman said she told the security guard. She said the guard then asked her to repeat herself, so she said again, “There’s a revolver in this bag.”

The woman said officers escorted her inside the building and administered a written test, fingerprinted her and removed her gun for test firing.

“I wanted to register as soon as possible, but I waited until later in the day to avoid the rush,” said the woman, who said the gun was a gift from about six years ago and that she had stored it outside the District.

She was the only one of the 58 applicants to complete the process, including a ballistics test on the gun.

Among the first to arrive when the doors opened at 7 a.m. was Dick Anthony Heller, 66, who was the responder in the case District of Columbia v. Heller. However, Mr. Heller, was told be could not register his 45-caliber semiautomatic Colt Model 1911 because it is still illegal under D.C. law. He couldn’t register a second gun, a revolver, because he didn’t bring the weapon with him.

“Now I’m disappointed,” said Mr. Heller, a security guard. “I’ve been denied again.”

Mr. Heller said he will try to register a nine-shot .22-caliber Harrington and Richardson revolver Friday.

The Supreme Court ruled June 26 in the case that the city’s ban on handguns was unconstitutional and that residents should be allowed to keep the guns in their homes for personal protection.

City officials began rewriting the laws immediately after the decision. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty proposed legislation Monday, which the City Council ratified Tuesday evening. The legislation will be in effect for 90 days so city officials can study its effectiveness.

In addition to the issue of semiautomatic weapons, most of which that can fire 12 or more rounds without reloading, residents and pro-gun groups also are taking issue with the section of the city legislation that states handguns have to be stored inside the home unloaded and with a trigger lock until “a reasonable, perceived threat of immediate harm.”

Dane Von Breichenruchardt, president of the District-based Bill of Rights Foundation, on behalf of Mr. Heller, criticized the city’s policy against semiautomatic guns, which it considers to be machine guns because most are capable of shooting 12 or more rounds without being reloaded.

Mr. Von Breichenruchardt said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, “promised he’d follow the letter and the spirit of the law [but] he has done neither.”

Several gun advocacy groups - including the National Rifle Association - also have said the District’s policy against automatic and semiautomatics guns violates the Supreme Court ruling in the District of Columbia v. Heller.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Chief Peter J. Newsham said the court’s ruling did not make semiautomatic guns legal and that the department intends to enforce the machine gun law.

“It’s a particularly complicated set of rules,” he said. “I’m sure [Mr. Heller] is making his own interpretation.”

Among the roughly half-dozen residents who arrived early Thursday was Jordan Schwartz, a 23-year-old law student at George Washington University.

Mr. Schwartz said he does not own a gun but thinks submitting an application is important because it allows him and others to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

“I’m putting myself in a position to own a handgun,” said Mr. Schwartz, who lives in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood in Northwest. “I think I should have the right to defend myself.”

Current gun owners who either keep their guns out of the city or are applying for amnesty for keeping an unregistered gun in the city must bring their weapons to the police when applying for a license.

New gun buyers must bring the gun to the department after receiving approval from police and transferring the gun to a licensed dealer in the District.

Many applicants said they wanted to get a head start on the process.

A 66-year-old Northeast resident who would identify himself only as Larry said he has registered shotguns previously but expected the process for handguns to be complicated and wanted to start his application early.

“It almost requires a law degree to get through this process,” he said. “I’m more worried that I’m not going live long enough to complete it.”

Anthony Hamilton, 35, of Anacostia, said he did not care whether the gun ban was repealed but now that it has been he wants to take advantage of an extra option of security for his family.

“It’s 50-50 with me,” Mr. Hamilton said. “It will give that criminal something to think about when they’re thinking about crashing in somebody’s door.”

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier did not expect a big rush of applicants, but said she wanted to be prepared just in case.

“It was a very slow, orderly day,” she said. “The number of people who came through here today shouldn’t really be surprising, considering a lot of residents have spoken about not wanting to have a handgun.”

The registration fee is $13 a gun, plus $47 for fingerprinting and ballistics testing.

Residents must be at least 21 years old and have good vision. They cannot have a serious criminal history or have been committed to a mental institution in the past five years.

The first day of registration was a year and one day after the District announced it would challenge Mr. Heller in the Supreme Court.

The District’s case has garnered national attention and led to legal challenges against restrictions on handguns in other parts of the country.

The NRA has filed lawsuits in several cities, including Chicago and San Francisco, to challenge their statutes.

Reps. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, and Mike Ross, Arkansas Democrat, introduced a bill seeking to restrict how the District can govern guns in the city. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, said the measure has no chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

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