Wanna Load Your D.C. Handgun? Better Be a “Reasonably Perceived Threat of Immediate Harm”
Local gun enthusiasts, note these words: "reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm."
That there, laid out in a law likely to be passed tomorrow by the D.C. Council, lays out exactly when you'll be allowed to actually load a gun in the District of Columbia for self-defense purposes.
This policy was announced this afternoon at a Wilson Building press conference featuring Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Interim Attorney General Peter Nickles, police chief Cathy Lanier, council Chair Vincent C. Gray, and various councilmembers. Much of the presser was devoted to the nuts and bolts of actually registering a handgun—you'll be able to apply for a handgun permit likely later this week, Nickles said, and the whole process should take "weeks or months." That includes taking a written firearms safety test and getting fingerprinted, plus a ballistics sample for every registered gun. Getting your hands on a gun is a trickier process; you can buy a gun in another state then have it transferred to a dealer in the District (for a fee)—last week, WTOP's Mark Segraves found the one guy in town who's willing to do that for you: one Charles Sykes, Jr.
As to where you can load that gun, given a "reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm," it's only in your home. Not your yard. Not your car, which might be parked in front of your home, but in your home. Now, as for the use of the gun once it's loaded, the statute will say nothing about that; use of a weapon in self-defense is governed by reams of case law, Nickles says.
The District's proposed standard is likely to attract additional legal scrutiny from folks who feel that the policy in not in full compliance with the Heller decision, but Nickles says it was drafted to comply fully with the holding. "When you do almost anything in this city, you get a lawsuit," he said.
Lots more info in the press release after the jump.
Government of the District of Columbia
Executive Office of the Mayor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mayor Fenty, Council Unveil Firearms Legislation and Regulations
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amnesty for Possession of Unregistered but Otherwise Registerable Firearms*
Firearms Control Emergency Amendment Act of 2008*
Notice of Emergency and Proposed Rulemaking*
*Requires a PDF reader for viewing.