City Desk

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.

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  • Orville Fabulous

    The foot-dragging by the sore losers in the Wilson Building reminds me of what an earlier Supreme Court (in Brown v. Board of Education II) called "all deliberate speed."

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Mike DeBonis

    Really? Doesn't strike me as foot-dragging at all. Seems to me three weeks is a perfectly reasonable period to have the legislation and rulemaking out following a decision of this magnitude.

  • Brad3000

    Fenty & co. are really push it.

    The Heller decision was pro self-defense.

    Having your handgun locked up unloaded (deja'vu again!) and then fumbling for ammo in the dark during in the stressful time of an attack is absolutely ludicous. Remember they are still only "allowing" revolvers.

    WTF, why bother with a handgun in the home - you are better off with a Rem 870 18" and OO Buck.

    I really hope Fenty gets kicked out of office next time.

  • Orville Fabulous

    If you have to keep your handgun unloaded, you might as well just throw it at the criminal who invades your home.

    You lost, D.C. Get over it and respect the Supreme Court's decision and the people's Constitutional rights.

  • http://gmail snowman

    Thank God for free speech or are you guys going to try to squash that one also it seems we have communist and socialist parties parked in washington D.C. now I suppose you guys think you are above the Supreame Court and will just re word and reorganize your current policy and move some furniture around it seems that your zionist and socialist mayor leader and his local gestopo nazi local police thugs are going to keep the freedom of your citizens oppressed for more years to come thank God that there are 180 million gun owners natoin wide as if this threat persists maybe 179 999 999 will pick up those arms and take this country back and that is your true fear is it not. It is a sad day to look upon a local goverment that thinks that it can rule the populious from your city desk and with your local nazi police department whats next Jews and Christians any one with an opinion or in the wrong place at the wrong time if I recall History we have fought many wars over seas and we are fighting one now on two fronts aginst people just like you I would not be surprised if you release all of those in gutonimo bay and give them citizen ship and give the Taliban and those folks work Visas boy I could rant and rave at you all day But you are obviously to STUPID TO GET THE POINT YOU COMMUNIST SOCIALIST BASTARDS.

  • Ladyshooter

    Whether Mayor Fenty and the other clowns at Washington, DC City Hall like it, an unloaded defensive firearm is useless.

  • PBR

    Fenty, like most non-gun owners, has no idea what is reasonable for self defense. As others have mentioned, loading a self defense gun only when there is a “reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm.”, is ridiculous to the point of being stupid.

    By the way Mike, it’s still foot dragging if you come up with idiotic legislation like this even if you do it quickly.

  • Skipper

    As a lawyer, I applaud this proposed city law. It will keep my fellow lawyers employed for several years as they file multiple lawsuits and appeals.

  • sara.h

    i wasn't aware that one could be a socialist, communist, Nazi and zionist all at once.

  • cast iron

    Y'all don't really need those guns, just a frying pan and a grandmother:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/01/AR2007020101975_pf.html

  • CCW4ME2

    Hey Fenty,Molôn Labé!

  • Mr Obvious

    It is a shame what legal hurdles the law-abiding citizens of D.C. are expected to jump through. They should march in the streets to demand their rights. The out of control Mayor and Police Chief as well as the council should be run out of office. I'm glad I don't live there. It is a shame that I cannot even visit this once great city because I refuse to give up my rights as a law-abiding citizen in order to comply with their holier than thou views on the citizens of this country. They have forgotten the meaning of public servant.

  • arthur

    Insufferable fatuous boob Fenty.

    As I expected, Fenty would come up with ludicrous and onerus requirements to restrict the exercising of your rights.

    I bet Fenty is against proving your citizenship with photo id at the polls.

    If those same requirements, testing, fingerprinting, registration and permitting were proposed to apply for voter registration, do you think that would be ok?

  • arthur

    Step one would be to remove Fenty's tax supplied bodyguards.

    Unconstitutionally, banning through procedure one whole class of firearms...semi autos. You know, like the Berrettas issued to the troops...a militia weapon.

    What section of the constitution says it's ok to "license" a right? Show me because I want to check all the speech licenses at the NY Times.

    Just living in DC is a reasonable expectation of danger.

  • Santee

    The good thing about registration and licensing:

    "This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!" - Adolph Hitler, 15 April 1935 (In an address to the Reichstag)

    They will know who has weapons to oppose them when liberty is at stake.

    "Any government that would attempt to disarm its people is despotic; and any people that would submit to it deserve to be slaves!" - Stephen F. Austin, 1835

    The fact is, the police cannot be everywhere at once. If you choose not to defend yourself or your family, that is your absurd decision and I wish you luck. However, for those of us who choose to exercise our Second Amendment right…Remember the old adage: "It is better to be judged by twelve than carried by six!"

    "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves." — Edward R. Murrow

    "If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government — and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws." — EDWARD ABBEY

    "Personally, I carry a gun because I'm too young to die and too damn old to take an ass kickin." - Bill Fleming

    Contrary to what you politicos tell you, this is your country, and it is ruled by law, and that law is found in the Constitution of the United States. Any law or rule that violates the Constitution is invalid. Yes, you may be arrested for violating their petty rules but the Constitution is still the law of the land, well, at least for now!

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Mike DeBonis

    Godwin's Law: invoked

  • Orville Fabulous

    Mike, why don't you go down to the Holocaust Museum and explain your clever little Godwin's Law to them?

    One response on the part of decent and civilized people to the late unpleasantness in Germany has been to declare "Never Again." That means that whenever we see aspects of Nazism cropping up (anywhere, and not just in Germany) we speak up. If you see something, say something.

    (Godwin's Law is analagous to saying that if you go to the doctor and he finds an aggressive melanoma on you, he should say nothing about it because mentioning the c-word is considered unnecessarily inflammatory.)

    The fact is that the Nazis imposed gun control on the German people, who went along like good little followers and did not have a Second Amendment to protect them. The registration and eventual confiscation of guns in private hands eventually made the German government's job a lot easier.

    Gun registration and confiscation also helped governments massacre their own people in Armenia, Russia, Cambodia, etc.

    When Fenty et al start taking a page out of the totalitarian butchers' book I expect people to stand up and call them on it. It shows what contempt D.C.'s leaders have for the Constitution and the people.

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