- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Metropolitan Police Department began its gun re-registration process with five people getting fingerprinted and submitting to background checks by Thursday afternoon.

An ongoing lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new requirement is playing out in court, but is unlikely to be resolved before the deadline passes at the end of March for the first wave of D.C. gun owners required to renew their gun registrations. Renewal is required for an estimated 30,000 guns registered in the city before 2011.

The city’s re-registration process went into effect Jan. 1, but the police department said the renewals will be staggered through December 2015 based on a gun owner’s birth date. For instance, individuals with birth dates from Jan. 1 through Feb. 15 will be required to register between Jan. 1 and March 31.

“Individuals will be mailed a notice from MPD giving them a three-month window to renew their registration,” police officials said in a statement issued Thursday.

In response to questions, the department issued a statement saying the Firearms Registration Section would accept walk-in renewals ahead of a firearm owner’s scheduled three-month window, but officials “would like everyone to abide by the posted schedule on the website to avoid long wait times and backlogs.”

Stephen Halbrook, an attorney representing clients who object to the registration requirements, said he is concerned that gun owners won’t be aware of the new requirements and will miss the renewal period — thereby making their firearms illegal.

“The law requires that they send notices out to people for registration requirement. If the person doesn’t get it, they are still liable under the law,” he said.

Mr. Halbrook is representing D.C. residents, including Dick Heller, whose earlier case resulted in the Supreme Court overturning the city’s handgun ban in 2008, in a case that challenges the re-registration requirements.

The case argues against the registration renewal on a number of points, including that the registrations “significantly burden Second Amendment rights” and that the police department’s chief reason for requiring registrations — the safety of police officers — is untrue.

But with motions and rebuttals scheduled to be filed through at least March, Mr. Halbrook said he doesn’t expect an imminent ruling in the case.

“This is not going to be resolved for a long time,” he said.

The District’s law is the first in the nation to require all firearm registrations to be renewed on a regular basis. A law passed in New York in 2013 requires permits for pistols and assault weapons to be recertified every five years, though the process only asks for personal information such as the owner’s address and type of weapons owned. Lawmakers intend that information to be used to conduct background checks to determine if a gun owner has become ineligible to own a firearm.

In the District, firearm registration renewal will cost gun owners $48 regardless of the number of guns they own, according to police. The reregistration is completed when the gun owner is fingerprinted, pays the renewal fee, passes a criminal-background check and submits a renewal form that confirms the owner’s home address, the serial number and type of gun owned, and answers a series of questions about their fitness to own a gun.

Any gun owner who does not renew their registration within the designated time frame will have their gun registration canceled, making possession of the firearm illegal.

Possession of an unregistered firearm is a crime punishable by a $1,000 fine or 1 year in jail.

NOTE: Due to incorrect information provided by the Metropolitan Police Department, an earlier version of this story said nine people had initiated the reregistration process by Thursday afternoon. Five people who own 11 guns began the reregistration process. The error has since been corrected.