Mayor Fenty and DC Council Unveil Firearms Legislation and Regulations

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mayor Fenty and DC Council Unveil Firearms Legislation and Regulations

The new rules are designed to protect public safety in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller.

Washington, DC – Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, joined by members of the Council of the District of Columbia, Acting Attorney General Peter J. Nickles and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, unveiled legislation and regulations on the registration and storage of handguns for self-defense in the home. The bill and rulemaking are necessary because of the United States Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which invalidated the District’s 32-year ban on handgun ownership.

“We continue to take every step we can to minimize handgun violence in the District,” said Mayor Fenty. “We must prevent handguns from falling into the wrong hands or being misused, while allowing District residents to exercise their Second Amendment rights under the Heller ruling.”

The proposed legislation has four main components:

  1. Continues to ban handguns in most places but creates an exception for self-defense in the home. The handgun ban remains in effect, except for use in self-defense within the home. Sawed-off shotguns, machine guns and short-barreled rifles are still prohibited.
  2. Requires the Metropolitan Police Department to perform ballistic testing on handguns and makes such testing a registration requirement. The Chief of Police will require ballistics tests of any handgun submitted for registration to determine if it is stolen or has been used in a crime. Also, to serve as many residents as possible, the Chief will limit registrations to one handgun per person for the first 90 days after the legislation becomes law.
  3. Clarifies the safe-storage and trigger-lock requirements. The legislation modifies existing law to clarify that firearms in the home must be stored unloaded and either disassembled secured with a trigger lock, gun safe, or similar device. An exception is made for a firearm while it is being used against reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm to a person within a registered gun owner’s home. The bill also includes provisions on the transportation of firearms for legal purposes.
  4. Clarifies that no carry license is required inside the home. Residents who legally register handguns in the District will not be required to have licenses to carry them inside their own homes.

The legislation is the result of collaboration between the Mayor and Councilmember Phil Mendelson, chair of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. Mendelson will introduce the “Firearms Control Emergency Act of 2008,”and the Council will act on an emergency basis during the July 15 legislative session.

Separately, Chief Lanier will issue emergency rulemaking on firearms registration and the licensing of firearms dealers, to bring the District into compliance with the Heller ruling. The rulemaking has four main components.

  1. Provisions for registering a handgun purchased for self-defense in a District residence.

    • A District resident who seeks to register a handgun must obtain an application form from MPD’s Firearms Registration Section and take it to a firearms dealer for assistance in completing it.
    • The applicant must submit photos, proof of residency and proof of good vision (such as a driver’s license or doctor’s letter), and pass a written firearms test.
    • If the applicant is successful on the test, s(he) must pay registration fees and submit to fingerprinting. MPD will file one set of fingerprints and submit the other to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis and criminal background check.
    • MPD will notify the applicant whether all registration requirements are satisfied. At that point, the applicant returns to the Firearms Registration Section to complete the process and receive MPD’s seal on the application.
    • The applicant takes his or her completed application to a licensed firearm dealer to take delivery of the pistol. If the dealer is outside the District, the dealer transports the pistol to a licensed dealer in the District to complete the transaction.
    • The applicant takes the pistol to the Firearms Registration Section for ballistics testing. When testing is complete, the applicant may retrieve the pistol and take it home.
  2. Provisions for registering a handgun legally registered in another jurisdiction, or a handgun possessed in the District but not registered.
    • Applicants bringing a firearm from another jurisdiction into the District must transport it immediately to the Firearms Registration Section, or notify the Section that they will do so within 48 hours.
    • MPD will allow the registration of previously possessed handguns other than those that qualify as “machine guns” under District law (that is, all automatics and most semiautomatic pistols) for the next six months. During that period, the Office of the Attorney General has established an Amnesty policy not to prosecute anyone for unregistered possession of such a handgun when it is brought to MPD for registration, although those who have committed other crimes with firearms of course remain subject to prosecution.
    • Regulations for registering handguns in either of these two scenarios are similar to those for newly-purchased handguns, but do not require the assistance of a licensed firearms dealer.
  3. Provisions for transporting firearms legally within the District. When the law allows transporting a firearm legally, the owner must transport it unloaded and securely wrapped in a package, with the package visible in plain view.
  4. Provisions for becoming a licensed firearms dealer.
    • Firearms dealers must first be licensed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
    • Potential firearms dealers must be eligible to register guns in the District and eligible under federal law to sell them.
    • Firearms dealer licenses will be valid for one year.
    • Applications for dealer licenses will include a sworn or affirmed statement by the applicant, and may require photographs and fingerprints.
    • Firearms dealers must also comply with other District licensing and zoning requirements, such as having a Basic Business License and certificate of occupancy.