- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The nation’s capital is home to some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. Washington city leaders intentionally crafted convoluted regulations to make it difficult for citizens to own firearms legally. Now that these obstructionist rules are in the spotlight, the D.C. Council realizes it needs to clean up its act.

The Washington Times’ Emily Miller has been closely documenting each step required in the process of exercising her Second Amendment right to keep arms. One of these is the mandatory gun “safety” course consisting of four hours of classroom instruction and one hour on the shooting range. For this, the city hands prospective gun owners a long list of instructors who have been certified by the Metropolitan Police Department to teach the class.

As Miss Miller revealed, this sheet of 47 phone numbers hadn’t been updated since September 2009. The majority were cellphones that went directly to voicemail when called, seven lines were out of service, two said they don’t teach the course anymore and one teaches the class only in Colorado and Georgia.

Within a month after Miss Miller’s story appeared, the registry office quietly posted an updated list of instructors online. The new document included Donna Worthy, an instructor who had been trying without success to get on the list for two years, along with another 15 new instructors. The police also deleted 14 obsolete names, undoubtedly saving other residents from wasting time making dead-end calls. The city additionally updated the detailed list of firearms that it will allow residents to purchase.

In July, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals smacked down the city of Chicago over instructional requirements similar to the District’s. The Second Amendment Foundation and Illinois State Rifle Association sued the Windy City for requiring training at shooting ranges that were banned by city ordinance.

As The Washington Times has exposed, Washington has created the same impossible situation, requiring residents to trek to Maryland or Virginia if they want to own a gun in the District. Feeling the heat, D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson introduced the Firearms Amendment Act last month to, among other things, allow the gun safety course to be completed within the city - in theory.

Washington, of course, has no shooting ranges for private citizens. For Mr. Mendelson’s proposal to be more than a public-relations stunt, the city should allow residents to use the police shooting range to complete the training demand.

The District also needs to do more than just revise a list of instructors’ names. The directory ought to provide more information, such as business affiliations, addresses, emails and websites. Women residents ought not be forced by police to go to a stranger’s home in order to get a gun to protect themselves, as happens under the current system.

Americans don’t have to take a test or pay hefty fees to qualify to exercise their rights to free speech and to vote. It’s equally as offensive to set such hurdles before the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court already ruled against the District’s decades-long, unconstitutional gun ban in the Heller case. City officials need to try harder if they want their rules to look at least somewhat reasonable before the issue comes back before the high court.

The Washington Times

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