COM­MENT & ANAL­Y­SIS

D.C.’S made-up gun laws Oner­ous rules be­come even worse when they’re fab­ri­cated

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

D.C. of­fi­cials will do just about any­thing to keep law-abid­ing cit­i­zens from law­fully pos­sess­ing a gun in the city. The Washington Times’ Emily Miller has found in the “Emily Gets Her Gun” se­ries that the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment (MPD) has been spread­ing false in­for­ma­tion about firearms own­er­ship. As a re­sult, res­i­dents and non­res­i­dents who have done noth­ing wrong risk false ar­rest and gun con­fis­ca­tion. As of Fri­day, the MPD’S Firearms Reg­is­tra­tion Of­fice had not re­moved the in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion from its web­site.

The reg­istry of­fice sup­plies a 22-page writ­ten guide to prospec­tive gun own­ers and an­swers their ques­tions over the phone. The reg­is­tra­tion packet says that a gun can only be out­side the home when “trav­el­ing di­rectly to or from a law­ful firearm-re­lated ac­tiv­ity (reg­is­tra­tion, hunt­ing, shoot­ing at a prac­tice range, etc.).” This is in­ac­cu­rate; res­i­dents can trans­port their reg­is­tered hand­gun for any le­gal pur­pose as long as it is prop­erly stored in their ve­hi­cle. The word “di­rectly” is the source of false in­ter­pre­ta­tion by the depart­ment, which has been ad­vis­ing the public that a D.C. res­i­dent tak­ing his pis­tol to a shoot­ing range in Mary­land or Virginia could not legally stop for gas or for lunch.

Asked about this, D.C. Coun­cil­man Phil Men­del­son told The Washington Times, “They’re just mak­ing stuff up.” He ought to know be­cause he wrote the firearm trans­port laws in the wake of the city’s Supreme Court loss in the Dis­trict of Columbia v. Heller case. “We spent a lot of time on that in 2008. We mod­eled it af­ter the fed­eral law,” the at-large Demo­crat said. Ac­cord­ing to D.C. law a legally reg­is­tered firearm can be trans­ported “for any law­ful pur­pose” from any place where you can legally “pos­sess and carry the firearm” to any other lo­ca­tion where you can do the same. This means res­i­dents with prop­erly reg­is­tered guns can take a firearm from home (the only place the Dis­trict rec­og­nizes as a le­gal place to keep arms) to neigh­bor­ing states for any law­ful rea­son.

Firearms at­tor­ney Richard Gar­diner, who rep­re­sents Dick Heller in a case be­fore the courts on D.C.’S reg­is­tra­tion process, said that the er­rors in the po­lice in­struc­tions seem to be based on laws that only ap­ply to non­res­i­dents. The D.C. code says that non­res­i­dents driv­ing with a firearm must be able to pro­vide proof of go­ing to or from the gun-re­lated ac­tiv­ity and that the gun is law­ful in the home state. This old law is still on the books but has been su­per­seded by the 2008 law and would be trumped by fed­eral law.

D.C.’S reg­istry of­fice should im­me­di­ately up­date its ma­te­rial to re­flect the ac­tual statute, and Po­lice Chief Cathy L. Lanier should is­sue a memo to the en­tire po­lice force en­sur­ing her of­fi­cers don’t mis­take law­ful ac­tiv­ity for some­thing un­law­ful. Mr. Men­del­son could take the old law for non­res­i­dents trans­port­ing guns off the books in his pend­ing leg­is­la­tion be­fore the Dis­trict Coun­cil so that pro­ce­dures are the same for all le­gal gun own­ers, whether res­i­dents or not. There is no room for in­ter­pre­ta­tion of gun laws be­tween cops and gun own­ers on the streets.

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