- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The D.C. Council on Tuesday gave final approval to regulations governing guns in the District, six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city’s decades-old ban on handguns.

“It’s been a pretty comprehensive effort, and I think we’ve got a good, balanced program that balances safety with the Second Amendment right to have a handgun for self-defense in the home,” D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said.

The council unanimously passed legislation requiring D.C. gun owners to register their weapons every three years and go through a background check every six years.

Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, and Harry Thomas Jr., Ward 5 Democrat, also won approval of an amendment to the bill mandating that residents complete a firearms training or safety course that requires them to spend at least one hour at a firing range and four hours receiving classroom instruction.

A divided Supreme Court in June struck down the District’s three-decade-old ban on handguns, forcing the city to rewrite its gun-control laws.

The District’s earlier efforts to do so faced roadblocks such as a still-pending federal lawsuit by plaintiffs including Dick Heller - the respondent in the Supreme Court case.

A bill by House lawmakers that would have undercut the city’s ability to regulate guns passed that chamber but effectively died in the Senate.

Mr. Nickles said he still expects a legal challenge to the regulations, but is confident the law will stand up in court.

He noted that city officials made changes to the original regulations, including modifications to safe-storage provisions in the law.

“I think it will stand up in court, and I’m hoping it will dampen any interest by Congress in getting back into this,” Mr. Nickles said.

Phil Mendelson, chairman of the council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, who helped formulate the legislation, said he has concerns about the training requirements, which he said go “so far beyond other jurisdictions.”

But “overall, I’m pleased with what we’ve adopted, and it significantly advances reasonable gun regulation,” said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat.

The regulations were still decried by some, who say they are too restrictive and not in line with the high court’s ruling.

Amy McVey, who in July became the first D.C. resident to register a gun with police after the Supreme Court struck down the gun ban, said the three-year registration requirement “makes me feel like I’m a criminal on probation.”

“You have to go back periodically and check in with them,” said Mrs. McVey, 45, of Northwest.

George Lyon, an original plaintiff in the Heller case that reached the Supreme Court, said the District still ranks alongside Chicago and New York regarding the stringency of its gun-control regulations.

“I think the District has far to go to fully respect the Second Amendment,” Mr. Lyon said. “I think eventually we’re probably going to get there. There may have to be additional lawsuits to get us there.”

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said the council is undermining the intent of the Supreme Court ruling by making residents jump through “hoop after hoop” to own a gun.

“I just don’t believe it’s about safety or crime or anything else,” Mr. LaPierre said. “It’s about barriers and obstacles and making it hard for the law-abiding citizen to access [that] freedom.”

However, Chad Ramsey, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said city officials have “done a good job of crafting something that will keep guns out of the wrong people’s hands and hopefully limit violence.”

“I think the crafters on the council were mindful of Heller … and were careful to make sure that all the new legislation keeps in mind what the Supreme Court said,” Mr. Ramsey said.

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