The highly restrictive firearms laws in Washington, D.C., are enforced differently depending on your status and political position on gun control.
Once again, the D.C. police are using their resources to provide illegal guns for a public relations stunt intended to pressure politicians to pass federal restrictions on the Second Amendment.
Outside the Washington National Cathedral on Sunday, blacksmiths will “forge firearms into garden tools” as a symbolic enactment of this year’s theme, “Swords into Plowshares.”
The Children’s Defense Fund, which is cosponsoring the event, said in a press release that blacksmiths will be using “illegal guns confiscated by the police.”
The dramatic scene will follows a children’s church service in which the organization’s president Marian Wright Edelman will speak.
It is illegal in the District to possess a firearm that is not registered. When asked about the event, Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s spokesman said that, “These are not firearms. They are scrap parts only, and they are inoperable.”
That’s actually legally irrelevant. According to the District firearms laws written after the Supreme Court’s Heller decision in 2008, even a non-functioning firearm must be registered and can result in criminal liability.
The chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police for D.C., Kris Baumann, disagrees with the department participating in this event.
“We are supposed to be the police and, as such, the laws must be applied to everyone without bias,” the head of the 3,600 member union told me Friday. “The minute we become politicized in how we enforce the law, we become compromised and we lose public trust. This is not rocket science, and yet there appears to be no learning curve on this issue.”
He’s referring to two cases of Chief Lanier using her power to help gun-control advocates. David Gregory of NBC News possessed an illegal 30-round magazine in an interview in December 2012 with National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre, but the anchor was never arrested or charged.
Also, Chief Lanier provided confiscated guns for a press conference in January at Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s request. As I reported in a column last week, Mrs. Feinstein used the weapons set by D.C. police on a pegboard as a backdrop to push for a new federal “assault weapon” ban for rifles with one feature like a pistol grip.
Using a Freedom of Information Act request, I uncovered emails between the chief, the senator’s staff and the sergeant at arms office in which they coordinated how to transfer the weapons, without technically breaking laws for which civilians have been jailed.
The dean of the Cathedral, the Rev. Gary Hall, spoke at Mrs. Feinstein’s media event. Wearing a clerical collar and standing in front of the illegal guns, he said that, “I can no longer justify a society that allows people other than military and police to own weapons like these.”
The NRA sent an email to its members about the event at the cathedral: “We believe that overbroad laws unequally enforced to advance a political agenda constitute an abuse of authority. If MPD is to carve out exceptions to D.C.’s draconian gun-control laws to avoid absurd and unjust consequences, hopefully it will do so on an equal opportunity basis.”
The organization added, “Better yet, hopefully the D.C. Council, or the U.S. Congress, will finally embrace the Second Amendment and reform D.C.’s unreasonable firearm laws.”