- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The D.C. Council decided Tuesday to postpone an attempt to get the city involved in handgun registration, instead deciding to first help businesses find suitable locations to do the work.

“I understand [council] members are hesitant about this,” said council member Phil Mendelson, upon withdrawing his legislation. “The perception or misperception [is] that we are getting into the gun business and displacing private activity.”

Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat, proposed the legislation because the city’s only federal firearms licensee, who oversees the transfer of out-of-state handguns to District residents, has been out of business for roughly three months.

Mr. Mendelson said he would instead wait until September to reintroduce the legislation with the hope that somebody else would come forward.

The city’s lone licensee, Charles Sykes Jr., lost the lease on his Southeast building in April, which has left D.C. residents unable to acquire a handgun.

The Metropolitan Police Department explains the predicament by saying D.C. residents can still purchase a handgun in another state.

However, federal law prohibits the sale of handguns across state lines. The state in which a gun is bought must transfer it to the federal firearms licensee in the purchaser’s state - except in the District because it now has none.

“It is important to note that this does not apply to rifles or shotguns, which do not need to be transferred to an FFL in the state of residence,” said police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump.

There are no commercial gun dealers in the city.

Mr. Mendelson said he pulled the bill in part because Capitol Hill has recently become more involved in city affairs.

“My concern is the current situation makes us more susceptible to interference by Congress,” he said.

Mr. Mendelson also likely knew that Mayor Vincent C. Gray, a Democrat, would strongly oppose the bill if passed.

Hours before the bill was brought before the council, on the final day before summer recess, Mr. Gray expressed deep concerns about the city getting into gun licensing.

“One of the things I don’t want to do is have the government in this business,” he told WTOP radio. “We don’t want the government becoming a purveyor of guns.”

The mayor said the city has been “moving expeditiously and earnestly” to help Mr. Sykes find a new location, including the possibility of finding him a public space as an interim solution and commercial space as a long-term solution.

One major hurdle is zoning laws. When the District’s handgun ban was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, zoning laws were enacted that required such businesses to be in commercial districts and 300 feet away from schools, libraries or other landmarks.

Attorney Alan Gura, who represented plaintiff Dick Heller in the case, has already filed a suit against the city, arguing three residents who wished to purchase handguns have been unable to do so since Mr, Sykes lost his lease.

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