- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 26, 2008

District residents who want to purchase a handgun and legally bring it into the city will have to wait at least several more weeks while a dealer gets his federal license renewed, officials said Friday.

The Supreme Court lifted the city’s 32-year-old ban last month, and D.C. officials quickly passed emergency legislation that allows residents to begin registering the weapons.

But hurdles remain.

Because there are no gun shops in the city, residents seeking to buy a handgun have to travel elsewhere, such as Maryland or Virginia. Under federal law, people can arrange to purchase a gun out of state, but the weapon has to be shipped to a licensed dealer in their home jurisdiction, where the buyer can arrange to receive it.

Charles Sykes Jr. is the only gun dealer in the District who has expressed interest so far in handling such transactions, said Mike Campbell, a spokesman for the D.C. field division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But Mr. Sykes does not have an active license because his business recently changed locations.

Mr. Campbell said it will take at least “a couple of weeks” before Mr. Sykes is again authorized to handle gun transfers — assuming his license is approved.

Mr. Campbell said officials will inspect Mr. Sykes’ business, CS Exchange, next week to determine whether he is in compliance with the city’s regulations.

Mr. Sykes, who has been selling guns since 1994 to police officers and security companies in the District, said his business is unmarked and that he shares a space with a security company in Southeast.

He said he has received about 20 calls from D.C. residents since the handgun ban was struck down June 26, with most asking whether he could help them purchase a gun.

“If I don’t assist them, then they don’t get this process completed - at least not right now,” Mr. Sykes said.

Though sympathetic to residents’ lack of options, Mr. Sykes said once he gets his license renewed he will see clients only by appointment. And he will not sell guns to the public - only handle gun transfers.

In the meantime, the only handguns that have been registered in the District were either stored outside the city during the ban, or were kept in the city illegally by residents and are now being allowed under an amnesty program, police said.

Officer Geri Mack, a Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman, said Friday that 195 people have picked up firearms application packets since the city began registering handguns last week. Three people have completed the registration process and 12 others are waiting for final approval.

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