Friday, April 20, 2007

Gun Are Already Legal in DC!

On a neighborhood list serve I’m on, a debate was recently raging about gun control in DC. It stemmed from a recent robbery attempt in which an assailant wildly fired a pistol while fleeing. People weighed in on both sides.

Basically, what it comes down to is the old 2nd amendment debate. I’m tired of hearing about it.

Regarding current district law, there is no constitutional issue. Any law abiding citizen in DC can own a fire arm. Let me make that statement again: any law abiding citizen in DC can own a fire arm. You just can’t own a pistol or a “sawed-off shut gun.” But you can own a rifle or a non-sawed-off shot gun.

The people who make the argument that they want to own a hand gun so they can protect their families and homes are being disingenuous. Leaving aside these peoples paranoia, siege mentality, mistrust of government, mistrust of humankind, and logical absurdity, here’s why they are disingenuous: if I wanted to own a firearm to defend my home from a burglar, murdered, or any other “home invader”, why would I want a pistol? I’d want a giant shot gun. You barely have to aim a shot gun. In a time of panic and fright, why would I want to mess around with a pistol, trying to aim it with a shaky hand, perhaps in the middle of the night, perhaps from across a room? A shot gun makes so much more sense.

That said, I don’t want a gun in my house of any kind. But, let me say this again: the people of DC already have, and have always had, the right to keep and bear arms: shotguns and rifles.

That should end the constitutional debate. But of course it doesn’t.


A Unique Alias said...

6-2311. Registration requirements.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no person or organization in the District of Columbia (“District”) shall receive, possess, control, transfer, offer for sale, sell, give, or deliver any destructive device, and no person or organization in the District shall possess or control any firearm, unless the person or organization holds a valid registration certificate for the firearm. a registration certificate may be issued:
(1) To an organization if:
(A) The organization employs at least 1 commissioned special police officer or employee licensed to carry a firearm whom the organization arms during the employee’s duty hours; and
(B) The registration is issued in the name of the organization and in the name of the president or chief executive officer of the organization; or
(2) In the discretion of the Chief of Police, to a police officer who has retired from the Metropolitan Police Department.
(b) Subsection (a) of this shall not apply to:
(1) Any law enforcement officer or agent of the District or the United
States, or any law enforcement officer or agent of the government of any state or subdivision thereof, or any member of the armed forces of the United States, the National Guard or organized reserves, when such officer, agent, or member is authorized to possess such a firearm or device while on duty in the performance of official authorized functions;
(2) Any person holding a dealer’s license: Provided, that the firearm or destructive device is:
(A) Acquired by such person in the normal conduct of business;
(B) Kept at the place described in the dealer’s license; and
(C) Not kept for such person’s private use or protection, or for the protection of his business;
(3) With respect to firearms, any nonresident of the District participating in any lawful recreational firearm-related activity in the District, or on his way to or from such activity in another jurisdiction: Provided, that such person, whenever in possession of a firearm, shall upon demand of any member of the Metropolitan Police Department, or other bona fide law enforcement officer, exhibit proof that he is on his way to or from such activity, and that his possession or control of such firearm is lawful in the jurisdiction in which he resides: Provided further, that such weapon shall be unloaded, securely wrapped, and carried in open view.

A Unique Alias said...

Can you help me find where I have this right?

kwest said...

It's plain as day: read the language of the DC Code you quoted. It's in paragraph (a): "...unless the person or organization holds a valid registration certificate for the fire arm." If you register it, you can keep it in the city. They won't allow you to register a hand gun. But they will allow you to register a rifle or shotgun.

Ask this guy. He did it:

(Oh, and I'm glad it took him so long.)

I hope the word "may" in the last line of (a) didn't confuse you. The last line says "a registration certificate may be issued:" to all those people in (1) through (3) following. It DOESN'T SAY "WILL ONLY BE ISSUED TO" or anything like that. That line gives the Police Department the discretion to issue a registration to (1)-(3), and is meant to allow them to carry hand guns, or sell guns.

Hope that clears up your rights.

A Unique Alias said...

My decodified read:

Nobody can own a gun without a registration. A registration may be issued to an organization if (conditions.) A registration may be issued, in the discretion of the top cop, to a cop. Anyone holding a dealer's license if they don't intend to use the gun for other than sales/trade.

I don't see any point at which it indicates that anyone else has rights. I understand the distinction between "may" and "may not". The distinction is the absence of the word "not." To say that permits may be issued to "X" groups, and specifically call out no other groups, essentially states that licenses "may not" be issued to "other than" those groups.

That's my read, anyway. I appreciate the linked page. I'll look it over quite closely. If it were reasonably practical to own a regular old shotgun in this city, I wouldn't be so fervently against its gun laws.

But, if it's been done, it must be possible

kwest said...

I understand your confusion. In my work for the federal government, there are lots of regs and laws that are written this way, and they are confusing. But trust me when I say that your reading of the law is incorrect.

(a) starts out in the negative, saying that no one can own a firearm (or destructive device, whatever that is), but then it uses the word "unless", and then gives the exception, and that exception is to hold a valid registration. Period. Full stop.

The use of the word "may" in the next sentence does not prohibit anyone from being issued a registration. Believe me, if that was the intent, it would be written "a registration certificate will only be issued to" or "a registration certificate may only be issued to". It doesn't say that.

Part of the intent of what follows gives the police the discretion to allow all those private security officers who guard all the federal buildings (and lots of other places), who are all contractors and not sworn constables, the ability to carry handguns.

If you look at the rest of the district code regarding firearms, you'll find a use of the word person (as well as organization), with what you have to do to register a fire arm.

I admit, like all DC law, regs, procedures, etc., it's extremely poorly written and confusing, but it passed someone's legal muster at some point, and people do register rifles and shotguns. The law doesn't give specifics about who you call and what form you file. I'm pretty sure it would be MPD. A gun dealer would probably know as well.

Hope this helps.