For the first time in the United States, a citizen who has legally registered a gun will have to submit to a renewal process. The consequences of not knowing about this new law or missing the specific 60-day window are dire.
Starting on Jan. 2, every single D.C. resident who has registered a firearm since 1976 must go to police headquarters to pay a $48 fee and be photographed and fingerprinted.
The Metropolitan Police Department estimates there are at least 30,000 registered gun owners.
If the registrant does not go to the police station within three months after a set time frame, the registration is revoked. That citizen is then in possession of an unregistered firearm, which is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
The gun itself is put into a category of weapons that can never be registered, just as though it were a machine gun or a sawed-off shotgun.
The city has not made clear how it will enforce the law, but the police are in possession of all registrants’ home addresses so confiscation and arrests would be simple.
The police are notifying registrants by mail that they have to come to the station on the set schedule.
Also, the department took out a $550 advertisement in The Washington Times to run on Monday. The required public notice is not being printed in any other newspaper or media outlet.
The three-year expiration date is supposed to uncover if a gun owner does something that makes him suddenly a danger to society, such as committing a felony, becoming a drug addict or being involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.
I recently asked D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who wrote these laws in 2009, why he couldn’t just run all our names through the FBI’s National Instant Background Checks System (NICS), which uses information including name, Social Security number, birth date and physical characteristics to determine if the applicant is legally prohibited from owning a gun.
NICS is used nationally for gun sales and transfers from licensed dealer and applications for a concealed-carry permit. (The records are not kept in order to prevent a national gun registry.)
“I don’t want name-based,” Mr. Mendelson replied. “I can go in and pretend I’m Emily Miller if I have your name and Social Security number. So name-based is not as good for identification as fingerprints. And NICS doesn’t have all the information.”
These points are disputed in a December court filing in the federal court case known as Heller II, which is challenging D.C.’s registration laws, including the reregistration section. The plaintiffs point out that NICS covers all state and local databases.
In a deposition, the officer in charge of the registration section for 20 years admitted that the unit has not had a problem with fake IDs.
Furthermore, criminals don’t go to the police station before buying their guns. Only the law abiding do that.