Lawsuit Bait: New D.C. Handgun Legislation

We may be able to measure the life of the District of Columbia’s newly proposed handgun law with a stopwatch. Unveiled today by Mayor Adrian Fenty and D.C. Council members, this measure is lawsuit bait that makes a mockery of the Supreme Court’s landmark District of Columbia v. Heller (PDF file) on June 26 by imposing maximum inconvenience on law-abiding D.C. residents who want to own firearms.

In striking down the District’s previous handgun ban, the Court ruled that “the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.” (District of Columbia v. Heller, p. 64)

So what does the District do? It thumbs its nose at the high court and then brags about it to appease liberal pro-gun control voters. According to a statement provided by the mayor’s office, “the handgun ban remains in effect, except for use in self-defense within the home.”

The statement continues, asserting that the bill

“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.”

This means that a gun owner must keep his gun in an inoperable condition right up until the moment he realizes there is an actual threat. At that moment and at that moment only may he load, reassemble, unlock, or take out of a safe his gun.

Violent criminals aren’t going to sit around and wait while residents race to load/reassemble/unlock their guns in order to comply with these onerous requirements that have the effect of preventing handguns from being used for “immediate self-defense.”

The legislation would also impose incredible burdens on lawful would-be gun owners, forcing an owner to have his weapon subjected to ballistics testing “to determine if it is stolen or has been used in a crime.” This means the law would presume all would-be gun owners to be criminals. Clearly this is calculated to slow the gun-registration process to a crawl.

It includes other bizarre requirements that treat potential gun owners as violent felons. Read the summary here.

Mayor Fenty patted himself on the back at a press conference today. “We think we have struck the delicate legal balance,” he said. “While we will have lawsuits, we think we stand on solid legal ground.”

If it passes, we’ll see how long it lasts before a judge strikes it down.

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