After four years of trying to hide from the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, Washington realized its gun laws had to change. On Tuesday, the D.C. Council voted unanimously to relax firearm registration requirements. The process to fix the law started just a few weeks after The Washington Times began a series documenting the District’s excessive hurdles to gun ownership.
The proposal will eliminate the five-hour training course requirement, ballistics test, vision test and ammunition restrictions. It also delays for two years the new re-registration and micro-stamping requirements and allows the mayor to act as a gun dealer if there is no other federal firearms licensee in the city.
The bill can still be amended in the minimum two weeks before final passage, but Judiciary Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson does not expect significant changes. Mayor Vincent Gray supports the bill and is expected to sign it.
The liberal council went along with the change only because of pressure from the federal legislative and judicial branches. Councilman Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, told The Washington Times that he voted in favor because “D.C. gun laws are in danger of being tampered with or overturned by Congress.”
The former mayor added that, “The NRA doesn’t even want registration. They don’t want nothing. You have to keep track of these guns. It could get stolen from you and used in a crime and it’s easier to trace it back to the owner.” No registered gun in the District has ever been used in a crime.
Council Chairman Kwame Brown favored the bill because, he told us, it does “everything possible to allow for a smoother process.” As recently as September, he responded to the question of whether he supported the Second Amendment by saying, “I don’t think we need more guns on our streets.”
The bill, however, does not lift the city’s ban on the use of guns for personal protection outside of the home. D.C. and Illinois are the only places in the country that refuse to allow any form of open or concealed carry for residents.
On Friday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled that the Free State’s restrictive concealed carry laws violated the Second Amendment. Judge Benson Everett Legg concluded, “A citizen may not be required to offer a good and substantial reason why he should be permitted to exercise his rights. The right’s existence is all the reason he needs.”
Mr. Mendelson said that his committee will not address the carry laws in D.C. until the Maryland case “plays out.” He called it “new ground in jurisprudence” that will be appealed. The at-large Democrat said that the Woollard decision wouldn’t relate to the District because the plaintiff was in a rural area far from political big shots.
“I do think carrying has severe implications for the nation’s capital,” he told The Washington Times, citing the common rationale given by local officials. “We’re different from Maryland because we have motorcades, the president around town, members of Congress going to the supermarket unescorted.”
Different or not, the District needs to realize that it cannot choose to exempt itself from a fundamental provision of the Bill of Rights.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.