- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Washington politicians are so anti-gun that they oppose a mere photo of a paper target. With D.C.’s gun-grabber laws under fire and pressure rising to allow concealed carry, the city’s liberal political establishment is panicking.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) put up a billboard in July at 13th and L Streets, N.W., that says, “Hey D.C. — It’s time for your first shot,” with the organization’s website and a photo of a woman holding a red, shot-out bulls-eye. The advertisement is for the NSSF First Shots, which are free safety-and-training seminars.

Mayor Vincent Gray fired off an attack on the sign, calling it “offensive” and “irresponsible.” According to NBC4, the Democrat complained, “To promote the use of guns in the city I think really is just anti-safety.”

“His reaction is sadly predictable — a knee-jerk, anti-gun reaction to anything firearms,” responded NSSF General Counsel Larry Keane. “I don’t see how the billboard or people going to a First Shots program to learn about firearms safety threatens the public safety of Washington or in any way encourages anyone to violate the draconian laws of D.C.” Mr. Keane said, “We have a suggested summer reading list for the mayor: the Bill of Rights and the Heller decision.”

First Shots, which has been taught in 48 states, was brought to Washington and Chicago after the Supreme Court overturned gun bans in those cities in 2008’s Heller and McDonald cases.

Phil Mendelson, chairman of the city council, thinks the course is on target. “I see nothing wrong with promoting gun safety,” the at-large Democrat — who wrote the city’s gun laws — told The Washington Times. “If this is a program which helps people use a firearm responsibly then that’s a good thing.”

The three-hour seminars cover local firearms laws, safe handling and shooting fundamentals. The classes from Aug. 24 to 28 will be taught at shooting ranges in Maryland and Virginia. There are no ranges inside the District because it’s illegal to carry a gun outside the home.

The mayor’s anti-gun hysteria stands in the way of greater gun safety. “The hands-on course with instructors and the chance to operate a firearm at a shooting range are better than watching a video,” explained Mr. Keane. He is referring to the free, 30-minute online video on gun safety and the laws — created by the Metropolitan Police Department — that has been required viewing for potential gun owners since July 1.

Until then, D.C. required residents who wanted a gun to submit to a five-hour course on gun safety that wasn’t allowed to be taught in the city. The class generally cost from $200 to $250. Mr. Mendelson got rid of this requirement in a bill that unanimously passed the city council and was signed by the mayor in May.

Robberies with a gun are up an astounding 19 percent in Washington this year, and assaults with a gun are up 9 percent. Mr. Gray should take aim at criminals with guns instead of law-abiding citizens who want to defend themselves.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.