- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The D.C. Council on Tuesday night approved emergency legislation that will repeal the District’s 32-year-old ban on handguns while setting stiff regulations for registering and storing guns inside homes.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill as early as Wednesday, which would allow residents to begin registering guns Thursday.

The bill passed unanimously in the 13-member council with minimal discussion, though several council members acknowledged that more work should be done on the legislation, which as an emergency bill will only be in effect for 90 days.

“There will be more work to be done,” Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, a Democrat, said. “I think where we’ve come in such a short period of time is barely short of remarkable.”

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at large Democrat, added one amendment to the bill to add a fee for ballistics testing of handguns before they are registered.

Police are prepared to register guns immediately, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said, though the process will take weeks or months depending on factors such as whether the gun is new and where it is purchased.

The department will release guidelines for the registration process, including fees for registration, fingerprinting and ballistics testing, once the law takes effect, police spokeswoman Traci Hughes said.

The fees will be affordable so as to “not be prohibitive” of gun ownership, D.C. Interim Attorney General Peter J. Nickles said.

City officials and lawmakers have said they expect court challenges to the law.

Mr. Nickles said he will evaluate problems with the bill and correct them with permanent legislation.

The permanent bill will likely be introduced after the council returns from its summer recess, which begins this week.

The Supreme Court ruled June 26 that the District’s ban on handguns was unconstitutional and that residents should be able to keep guns in their homes for personal protection.

In the majority opinion, in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote “the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”

Yet the new legislation contains a controversial provision requiring gun owners to leave weapons unloaded and either disassembled or locked (such as with a trigger lock or in a gun case) unless the owner faces a “reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm.”

The National Rifle Association (NRA) objects to the provision, but has not planned any action yet, spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said before the vote.

“As far as legal issues are concerned, … our reaction will be swift,” he said.

Automatic and semiautomatic handguns remain illegal because they meet the District’s definition of a machine gun, an issue several gun advocates said they intend to challenge. In addition, residents still cannot “carry” a handgun outside their homes.

The NRA followed the Supreme Court’s ruling by filing lawsuits in several cities, including Chicago and San Francisco, to challenge their statutes.

Reps. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, and Mike Ross, Arkansas Democrat, introduced a bill in Congress seeking to restrict how the District can govern guns in the city.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, said the measure has no chance of passage in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

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