The District has moved one step closer to showing due respect to the Second Amendment. Potential gun owners will now save hours of their time and hundreds of dollars as a council committee voted to eliminate hurdles meant to discourage the law-abiding from keeping arms in the nation’s capital.
The newly-drafted legislation eliminates the five-hour training requirement for gun ownership. As documented in The Washington Times’ “Emily Gets Her Gun” series, this turned out to be the most time-consuming and expensive barrier. The classes, which cost an average of $200, could not even be legally taken within city limits, calling into question the requirement’s constitutionality.
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Cathy Lanier asked the council to end the mandatory classes. She told The Washington Times that her department will instead provide a video online or at the registry office that covers gun safety and local laws. “I think it makes sense,” she explained. “We’ll be more consistent with what other jurisdictions do.”
The bill also does away with ammunition restrictions for registered gun owners. Under current law, residents face up to a year in jail for possession of any ammunition that is not in the same caliber or gauge as the registered gun. The city will also cancel the pointless vision and ballistics tests that were previously mandatory. The proposal will even allow the mayor to act as a gun dealer in the event the District’s only licensed broker, Charles Sykes, goes out of business.
Law-abiding gun owners will not be inadvertently made criminals as the new bill will suspend the registration renewal section of the law until Jan. 1, 2014. The District currently requires re-registration every three years, but MPD wasn’t prepared to handle the workload. As a result, many registered gun owners technically became lawbreakers at the end of January. This aspect of the bill will be implemented on an emergency basis so it’s effective before a March deadline.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson, Democrat at-large, initially proposed the legislation in December that tinkered with the country’s most oppressive firearms laws. After a hearing in January in which I testified, the bill was expanded to offer meaningful relief to prospective gun owners. The Council wrote the current laws after the Supreme Court overturned its 30-year handgun ban in the Heller case in 2008.
The liberal council is overwhelmingly anti-gun, but it is feeling the heat from pending court cases and a newly Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Councilman Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, voted for the bill under political pressure. “Council member Mendelson called me last night and said, ‘This is what I believe we have to do in order to accommodate the concerns raised by Congress and, or, the courts,’ Mr. Evans told The Washington Times. “Although none of us like making it easier for someone to have a gun legally, we believe that this is what we have to do.”
With violent crime up 40 percent this year so far, more D.C. residents are likely to want a pistol to protect themselves. The good news is that it should be easier to get one by summer. If the full council passes the final bill in April, it would take effect after a 60-day congressional review period.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.