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MILLER: Treating gun owners like criminals

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Re-registration is an assault on the Second Amendment

The 1,800 or so criminals who have killed, robbed or assaulted innocent people in the District of Columbia so far this year were hauled into the police station to be fingerprinted, photographed and forced to undergo a criminal-background check. Now legal gun owners who have committed no crime are getting the exact same treatment. It's not fair.

The latest gun-control scheme that starts on Jan. 1 will force every legal firearm owner in the nation's capital to go in person to police headquarter to renew their registration certificates.

The Metropolitan Police Department filed proposed rules last week, and citizens have until Dec. 15 for comment. To avoid becoming a felon, anyone with a gun registered before 2011 will have to go to police headquarters to be fingerprinted, photographed, provide proof of address, pay a fee and confirm they may still legally possess the firearm. The Firearms Registration Section will then create a new registration certificate — now in the form of an ID card — for each gun.

This operation could end up making the rollout of Obamacare look smooth and easy. The police propose scheduling everyone in three-month windows based on their birthday. The eight windows start on Jan. 1 and go through 2015. They intend to set up an online system to make an appointment.

The department is trying to set up a system to accept credit cards for the $13-per-gun fee, but that has not been finalized. George Lyon, who was a plaintiff in the original Heller case, pointed out that it will cost him $104 to re-register his eight guns. "I don't see that they need a re-registration system at all," the Washington lawyer told me. "But if they do, this whole thing ought really to be done online, automated and without adding more fees."

The registration-renewal requirement is already being challenged in court. Heller v. District of Columbia — commonly known as "Heller II" — takes on the entire registration law that was enacted in 2009 after the Supreme Court overturned the District's 30-year-old handgun ban in the original Heller decision.

Dick Heller, the lead plaintiff, told me of the requirement, "What's the point? Will that make the bad guys come down and register? Nope, just the law-abiding."

Heller II is pending in federal district court with each side filing motions for summary judgment this month and next. "Re-registration is onerous and completely unnecessary and is a trap for the unwary," said Stephen P. Halbrook, the lead attorney for Heller II. "Fail to re-register for whatever reason, and you're committing a crime — possession of an unregistered firearm. This is plain harassment for exercise of a constitutional right."

The renewal process was supposed to be done online and by mail and start in 2012, but the police were not able to create a system to do it in time. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier testified before the D.C. Council's Judiciary Committee in January 2012 against keeping the three-year limit on certificates because her department did not have the resources, and so it "may cost more than the potential benefit." City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson refused to let it drop, but passed a law to give D.C. police a two-year extension. In an interview late Wednesday, Mr. Mendelson said that, "The reason for renewals is to make sure people don't become disqualified to own a firearm."

The whole convoluted scheme will not do a single thing to make the city safer. Fingerprints don't change. The only reason for forcing a resident register all over again is the police didn't use a system that was able to retain the fingerprints until March of this year.

It is unnecessary to prove your home address or ownership because the law already dictates that a gun owner must notify the registry office with a change of address or gun sale, so the registration does not change otherwise.

Most importantly, the police can easily check if a registrant is still legally able to possess a gun by running his name and Social Security number through the FBI's background-check system.

A police spokesman estimates there are approximately 30,000 firearms registered to private citizens in D.C. This number is remarkably low for a city of 600,000 because most law-abiding people won't go through the 11 steps necessary to register. As Mr. Heller pointed out, the criminals aren't showing up at police headquarters to offer up their fingerprints or take a written test before buying guns.

Gun registration is a clear violation of the Founding Fathers' intent that the Second Amendment would prevent government tyranny. Once the government knows about every single gun owned by each citizen, then an armed populace is no longer a deterrent.

Emily Miller is a senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of "Emily Gets Her Gun" (Regnery, 2013).

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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