Washington Council Enacts Tough Gun-Control Measure
By MICHAEL FALCONE
Published: December 16, 2008
WASHINGTON — Nearly six months after the Supreme Court put an end to the District of Columbia’s decades-old ban on handgun possession, the City Council here passed a sweeping new ordinance on Tuesday to regulate gun ownership.
The legislation would require all gun owners to receive five hours of safety training and to register their firearms every three years. In addition, they would have to undergo a criminal background check every six years.
Councilman Phil Mendelson, who helped draft the bill and shepherd it through the Council, called it a “very significant piece of legislation that borrows best practices from other states.”
Opponents said the legislation flew in the face of the Supreme Court ruling in June.
“The D.C. Council continues to try to make it harder and harder for law-abiding citizens to access this freedom,” Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, told The Associated Press.
Since the Supreme Court struck down the district’s handgun ban, the Council had stitched together a series of emergency measures to regulate gun ownership. Those included allowing residents to keep handguns in their homes, but only if they were used for self-defense.
This fall members of Congress sought to pass a bill that would have rolled back some of the temporary restrictions, but it stalled.
In the landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to own a gun and overturned the district’s 32-year-old ban.
At the time, Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, acknowledged the problem of handgun violence, but said, “It is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”
Proponents of the current legislation said it was the strongest move by district officials to toughen Washington’s gun laws since the court ruling. At the Council session, the body’s chairman, Vincent C. Gray, told of how as a child he was almost accidentally shot by his brother.
Mr. Mendelson said in an interview that he was optimistic that a provision of the new ordinance that required certain handguns to be “microstamped” beginning in 2011 would help in tracking down violent offenders.
He also said the bill had provisions to make it more difficult for some residents, like those who have a history of violent behavior or have been committed to a mental institution within the last five years, to register to own a gun.
“A lot of critics of gun registration say that all it does is it restrict law-abiding people,” Mr. Mendelson said. “But the reality is it makes it easier for law enforcement to go after criminals.”
These clowns in the city council just won't give up.