- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dick Anthony Heller finally got his gun.

The registration of his revolver is not complete, but D.C. police Friday allowed the man who successfully challenged the District’s gun ban to take the weapon home pending the required background investigation.

Mr. Heller brought his nine-shot, .22-caliber Harrington and Richardson revolver Friday to Metropolitan Police headquarters to begin the registration process — which included filling out forms and submitting the gun for ballistics testing.

Six applicants including Mr. Heller have brought in guns since Thursday, the first day residents were able to begin registering firearms under new city laws. The D.C. Council adopted emergency legislation Tuesday to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision three weeks ago striking down the weapons ban. A legal battle Mr. Heller began four years ago culminated in the landmark ruling.

“My first reaction is we shouldn’t have had to be here in the first place,” said the 66-year-old security guard. “But since we’re operating under that constraint, it’s a great feeling to be returning to a state of normalcy when it comes to being able to defend your life and your household.”

He already owned the revolver he brought in Friday, among other weapons, but said he has kept them at a friend’s house in Maryland. Mr. Heller did not bring any weapons to police headquarters Thursday, and instead asked for public assurance he would not be prosecuted when he did.

The first to seek to register a gun was a third-generation Washingtonian who identified herself only as Amy and said the gun was given to her as a gift about six years ago.

Police said only 104 residents have requested applications since Thursday, though long lines were anticipated.

Five prospective gun owners have submitted weapons for ballistics tests and one application has been denied, police said. Four of them applied under a six-month amnesty program for residents who kept an unregistered handgun in their homes while the gun ban was in effect.

The registration fee is $13 per gun, plus $35 for fingerprinting and $12 for ballistics testing.

Residents must be at least 21 and have good vision. The background check is meant to screen out those who have a serious criminal history or have been committed to a mental institution in the past five years.

On Thursday, Mr. Heller attempted to register another pistol he owns, a .45-caliber Colt Model 1911 semiautomatic, knowing he would be turned away, to draw attention to an aspect of the D.C. gun law that remains contentious.

Semiautomatic weapons are still banned in the District on the grounds that they can accommodate modified magazines allowing them to shoot 12 or more rounds without reloading. Under D.C. law, these weapons are considered machine guns, even though they are not fully automatic.

Mr. Heller said Thursday he was trying to register the semiautomatic even though he did not bring it with him, saying he feared prosecution.

Police Assistant Chief Peter J. Newsham said police will confiscate guns that are still illegal but will not arrest those who bring them in for registration.

Mr. Heller used the occasion Thursday to announce his candidacy for the District’s non-voting seat in the House of Representatives. He is seeking to gather 3,000 signatures to run as a Libertarian candidate against incumbent Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Some gun groups think registration might take off as more residents learn about the Heller case and if gun dealers set up shop in the city.

“There are no gun shops around [and] you can’t go over to another state and bring it in,” said Bill of Rights Foundation President Dane von Breichenruchardt, who assisted Mr. Heller with registering his gun. “It’s probably going to be a slow process.”

Residents who are buying new guns must transfer them to a licensed dealer in the District after receiving approval from police.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said he was surprised by the low number of applicants and thinks it may be indicative of residents’ overall attitude toward gun control.

“I think nobody really knew what to expect after 30 years,” said Mr. Mendelson, who is chairman of the council’s committee on public safety. “I wonder if this is suggestive that the citizens of Washington are so used to gun control that there just isn’t the interest.”

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

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