The District took a big step on Tuesday toward bringing its gun laws in line with the rest of America. While an oppressive registration requirement remains in place, the D.C. Council voted unanimously to make the overall process of becoming a handgun owner significantly less expensive and time-consuming for residents.
"I'm glad we were able to streamline some of the provisions because the law should not be unnecessarily burdensome," Judiciary Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson told The Washington Times on Tuesday.
Asked whether there could be more changes in the future, the at-large Democrat said the laws are "a work in progress" as officials figure out the best way to comply with the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that struck down the city's 30-year handgun ban. "As we've seen, how this has been implemented since the changes in the Heller decision, we've learned where there's some unnecessary hurdles and things that take too long," Mr. Mendelson said.
The biggest hurdle, a five-hour training mandate, is gone. So too are ballistics testing, vision testing and the requirement that application documents be notarized. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) will take photographs of applicants. Registered gun owners will no longer be subject to arrest if they possess the wrong type of ordinary ammunition.
The mayor will become a gun dealer if the city's only federal firearms licensee goes out of business. The 10-day waiting period will start from the date the gun is purchased, rather than the date of the application. Finally, the three-year reregistration and microstamping requirements are both delayed until 2014.
Normally, Congress has 60 days to review changes to D.C. criminal law, which would delay this measure's effective date until November. To speed things, Mr. Mendelson put through an emergency bill so many of the changes can be implemented immediately. While the permanent bill winds its way through the regular process, the process of easing restrictions begins as soon as the mayor signs the ordinance.
Some parts of the law are postponed for two months to give MPD more time to implement. To avoid paying more than $200 and wasting a workday on a gun-ownership course, residents should wait until July 1 to start the registration process. By then, the police will have prepared a training video to replace the class.
A spokesman for MPD explained that the agency had to delay elimination of the vision test so it could find a way for someone without a driver's license to prove he's not legally blind. The police also will work with the FBI to set up a system to save applicant fingerprints so gun owners don't have to return to the registry office every six years for a new background check.
The Washington Times' series "Emily Gets Her Gun" meticulously documented each of these barriers to gun ownership designed make it prohibitively expensive to bring legal firearms into the District. The series won't end with merely allowing residents to keep arms locked up in their homes. The Second Amendment also recognizes the right of the people to bear arms.
Although the District's latest changes are surprisingly generous, registration is pointless and should go. If the nation's capital wants to be considered an equal with the other states, it ought to start with allowing open and concealed carry.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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