Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How tightly can you regulate a right?

The U.S. Supreme Court may have finally recognized the right to bear arms as protected by the Second Amendment, but the D.C. city government seems determined to put the concept of "constitutionally protected right" to the test. Mayor Fenty's wish-list of proposed regulations are certainly preferable to the outright ban on handguns the city imposed for 32 years, but they seem a bit more restrictive than you'd expect to be permissible for the exercise of a right rather than a privilege. The proposed legislation has four main components:
1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

You mean D.C. residents won't be prosecuted if they take their locked or disassembled pistols from the living room to the bed room? Oh joy! Requirements for actually registering that piece of iron you've been stashing (there's an amnesty provision) or plan to purchase are ... convoluted and detailed. For example:

1. Provisions for registering a handgun purchased for self-defense in a District residence.
a. 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.

b. 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.

c. 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.

d. 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.

e. 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.

f. 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.

The proposed rules actually remind me of the current New York City restrictions, which I navigated a decade ago with the help of a hired middleman and a fair amount of money that went to unknown uses (greased palms, I assumed). New York's rules are explicitly designed to discourage gun ownership -- although they just discourage legal gun ownership and leave most folks outside the law. I would expect New York's rules to be challenged in the wake of Heller, with D.C. to follow if it adopts Fenty's scheme.


Georgia: Armed man scares away robber: "A Bainbridge man refused to be robbed when he was accosted around 5 a.m. Saturday morning. The complainant, a resident of Spruce Street, told BPS that he was sitting on his front porch smoking a cigar and drinking a cup of coffee. According to the resident, a man wearing a mask and carrying a large knife approached and demanded that he hand over his wallet. The citizen said he told the masked robber that he had to go inside the house to get the wallet. The homeowner returned, not with his wallet in hand, but instead wielding a pistol, which sent the robber off running. Officer Gary Hines attempted to locate a suspect but was unsuccessful. Georgia is one of several states that does not require people who are attacked or threatened to retreat before using deadly force to protect themselves, other persons or a property"

Tennessee Store Clerk Shoots Teen During Robbery in Memphis: "Police say a Memphis store clerk shot a 17 year-old boy during a robbery. According investigators, it happened around 8:50 p.m., Monday, July 14, 2008, at the Margarita Market in the 6000 block of Knight Arnold Road. Police say the teen and three other men were shoplifting at the store when the clerk confronted them. The four suspects, ages 17, 19, 20, and 28, attacked the clerk during the confrontation, according to investigators. Police say that is when the clerk shot the 17 year-old in the leg. Police say the teen was taken to the hospital in non-critical condition. The store clerk was treated for minor injuries to his face, neck, and arms said police. Detectives say all four suspects are in custody, but no charges have been filed at this time."

Virginia: Potential victims turned tables on robbery suspects: "An armed-robbery suspect was shot by his potential victim Tuesday, the second time in a week where the tables were quickly turned, police said. Just after 3 p.m. Tuesday, a 16-year-old was shot in his upper right leg as he attempted to rob a man at gunpoint in the backyard of a 25th Street home, police spokesman Harold Eley said. The teenager, whose name wasn't released by police because he's a juvenile, survived his injury and was released from a local hospital into police custody. Eley said the juvenile shot at 3:10 p.m. Tuesday was attempting to rob a 31-year-old Virginia Beach man, who pulled out his own gun. The 16-year-old fled after being shot but was picked up by police on 25th Street. After his release from the hospital, the teen was charged with robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Police also charged him with the July 6 robbery and carjacking of an 18-year-old Newport News man on Aqua Vista Drive. He's being held in the city's juvenile detention center. Eley said the man who shot the teen didn't have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The gun was seized, but no charges were filed."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Someone explain to me just how these changes in DC's handgun laws are any better than an outright ban on firearms. The hoops in place are so restrictive that they make a virtual ban. This accomplishes nothing. And NO ONE seems to know what is on the written test or at least no one has mentioned a concern over it. That test alone could be so convoluted that no one could pass it thereby making the applicant ineligible for owning a firearm. I cannot see, for the life of me, how this conforms to the spirit of the SCOTUS ruling on the Second Amendment case of Heller.