Bill would drop class­room, fir­ing range rule to reg­is­ter a gun

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

A D.C. Coun­cil com­mit­tee green­lighted a bill on Wed­nes­day that elim­i­nates class­room train­ing and fir­ing range in­struc­tion as a pre­req­ui­site for reg­is­ter­ing a gun.

The leg­is­la­tion, ap­proved 3-0 by the Com­mit­tee on the Ju­di­ciary, also al­lows the mayor to act as a fed­eral firearms li­censee to over­see the trans­fer of out-of-state hand­guns to D.C. res­i­dents, if there is no one to fill the role. Cur­rently there is only one li­censee in the Dis­trict, Charles Sykes Jr., who op­er­ates out of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment’s head­quar­ters.

Un­der the bill, cur­rent gun own­ers won’t have to re-reg­is­ter their firearms un­til Jan­uary 2014. The Dis­trict re­quires gun own­ers to re­new their reg­is­tra­tion ev­ery three years, but was ille­quipped to han­dle up­com­ing re­newals.

Com­mit­tee Chair­man Phil Men­del­son, at-large Demo­crat, plans to in­tro­duce the bill for a first read­ing be­fore the full coun­cil at its leg­isla­tive meet­ing on Tues­day. He will in­tro­duce the re- reg­is­tra­tion mora­to­rium as an emer­gency, so it would go into ef­fect im­me­di­ately if passed.

Firearms in­struc­tor Ge­orge L. Lyon Jr. said the bill marks “sub­stan­tial progress” for Sec­ond Amend­ment rights in the Dis­trict, a city that pro­hib­ited hand­guns for decades be­fore the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the ban in 2008 with its land­mark opin­ion in Dis­trict of Columbia v. Heller.

Mr. Lyon, a lo­cal gun ac­tivist and plain­tiff in the Heller case, said he in­formed Mr. Men­del­son’s off ice months ago of a key prob­lem in the Dis­trict — namely he could not, legally, show a stu­dent how to grip a gun and other safety point­ers in the class­room.

“If I handed you a firearm that’s not reg­is­tered to you, I’m com­mit­ting a crime and you’re com­mit­ting a crime,” he said. “So it’s a Catch-22.”

D.C. Po­lice Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the elim­i­na­tion of class­room and fir­ing range ses­sions “makes sense” and brings the Dis­trict in line with other ju­ris­dic­tions.

She said po­ten­tial reg­is­trants will in­stead view a sim­ple train­ing video and take a one-time knowl­edge test on gun laws.

Among other pro­vi­sions, the bill elim­i­nates a vi­sion test (ex­cept for the legally blind), the bal­lis­tics test and most re­stric­tions on the types of am­mu­ni­tion a reg­is­trant can pos­sess, but in­creases the penalty for pos­sess­ing so-called “cop killer” bul­lets that can pen­e­trate lay­ers of Kevlar body pro­tec­tion.

Ri­cardo A. Royal, na­tional pres­i­dent of the Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion for Firearms Ed­u­ca­tion, said he grew up in the Fort Tot­ten area, but the in­abil­ity to in­struct stu­dents on firearm safety in the Dis­trict was a fac­tor in his move to Mary­land.

He said the gun laws ad­dressed in Mr. Men­del­son’s bill have a long, tor­tured his­tory in the Dis­trict, yet “the Heller decision brought it front and cen­ter.”

Mr. Men­del­son said au­to­matic weapons are still pro­hib­ited, and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous peo­ple such as felons and the men­tally ill are still barred from gun own­er­ship.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Demo­crat, also noted there is no change to the penal­ties for car­ry­ing an un­reg­is­tered gun. Coun­cil mem­ber Jack Evans, Ward 2 Demo­crat, was the third mem­ber to ap­prove the bill at its markup.

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