D.C. Council Introduces New Gun Laws

Posted July 1, 2008 at 3:40pm

Legislation was introduced in the Washington, D.C., city council today that will lift the District’s gun ban in compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that the ban violated residents’ Second Amendment rights.

The bill, introduced by Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and co-sponsored by the entire council, amends the present gun code to allow for registered handguns in the District. It also creates certain provisions for possessing the weapons.

“I introduced this bill and all the councilmembers co-introduced it because I wanted first of all to show that we intend to be responsive to the Supreme Court as much as we are disappointed by the decision,” said Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. “I think it’s important to move quickly to protect existing gun laws.

The legislation allows registered guns in the home as long as they are unloaded, disassembled or bound by a trigger lock.

Guns that are owned for the purpose of “immediate self-defense” and are in a home or a place of business can remain loaded and assembled, and are not required to have a trigger lock.

The bill also proposes that all guns registered in the District provide a ballistics print, a fired bullet and an empty cartridge casing, which can be used to match pre-sale ballistics data with crime scene information.

Mendelson says he doesn’t expect any of his fellow councilmembers to oppose the bill, though he says some may argue that it isn’t strict enough.

The D.C. gun ban, which dates back more than 30 years, was ruled unconstitutional by the high court last week in a 5-4 decision. The opinion, penned by Justice Antonin Scalia, was the first time the high court has ruled on the Second Amendment since 1939.

Hearings on the legislation will not be held until September, as the council is going out of session for the summer on July 15.

There is a possibility, however, that the council will enact emergency legislation before its summer break that would create a temporary set of rules that would be in effect for 90 days and would not be reviewed by Congress.