D.C. Police Chief Weighs In On Gun Ruling

Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Washington, D.C.'s ban on handguns, the city has been working to figure out how to comply with the court's decision while still addressing concerns about crime and safety. Co-host Ari Shapiro talks with Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier about the city's next steps.

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ARI SHAPIRO, host:

Communities around the country are trying to figure out whether they need to adjust their gun laws to comply with last week's Supreme Court decision. That opinion said Americans have the right to own a gun for self-defense and hunting. The ruling came in a direct challenge to Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban, and the justices said that law was unconstitutional. So, we reached D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier to see how her city is responding to the decision.

Police Chief CATHY LANIER (District of Columbia): When the decision came out and staff brought in the decision, and it's quite a large stack of paper, all those things have to be gone through by the city attorneys. But there are some things that boil down, you know, very quickly what was left intact and what changed. So we're focusing on what has changed and how we're going to deal with those changes.

SHAPIRO: Give me some examples.

Chief LANIER: Well, the big changes really are on three fronts. The first is that you will now be allowed to register a handgun in your home. A lot of people don't realize, but we've always had a provision that allows you to register a firearm in your home for self protection. It had to be a shotgun or a long gun, it just couldn't have been a handgun. So that's the big changes.

Now you'll be allowed to register a handgun if you meet the same basic criteria to register a firearm.

SHAPIRO: Meaning you can't be a felon, you…

Chief LANIER: Right. The other thing that is important for people to know, you cannot register the automatic or semi-automatic handguns, and I think there's a lot of misperception about that out there. A lot of people who want to purchase handguns now think that they can go into a gun store and purchase a .45-caliber, nine-millimeter and semi-automatic and take it home. So, pretty important piece for people to understand.

And then lastly in the district, we had pretty strict storage provisions, so that if you did have a gun in your home, there were certain conditions that you had to keep that gun to ensure that it was safe - either unloaded, disassembled or security-locked with a trigger lock.

So that has been determined by the courts to be too broad. So we're going back to the drawing board to put together regulations that fit within the decision of the courts but also meet our needs for safe storage.

SHAPIRO: Are there other cities that you're looking to as a model for how you might fit with the Supreme Court opinion and still go forward in controlling gun possession?

Chief LANIER: Yeah, obviously when it comes to the registration, that's going to be important to look at what other jurisdictions have done around the country and how those things were implemented - cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York. We have benchmark cities that we use to look at most of our regulations here.

SHAPIRO: Walk us through the immediate next steps. What are the things that the D.C. Police Department is focused on doing right now.

Chief LANIER: Well, we have 21 days to finalize regulations. So we are working on that right now, and that really is kind of finalizing how we'll go about getting persons who want to now register handguns in the District to come in, go through that registration process. We certainly want to do everything we can to make sure that guns are safe, primarily from children and from falling into the wrong hands.

SHAPIRO: Are you concerned that after this ruling, crime in D.C. may increase?

Chief LANIER: The number one question I get: Is crime going to go through the roof, or is crime going to go down? I don't have a crystal ball, but I don't think either one of those things, that you're going to see a dramatic increase or decrease in crime. What I do think I can predict pretty safely, is that accidental shootings will go up.

There's been studies that show that suicides do increase in homes where firearms are present, especially among young folks in the home. And the other thing that I worry the most about and really does have a direct impact on crime is domestic violence. In a home where a handgun is now present and wasn't before, the possibility of domestic violence through the use of a firearm, I worry about that going up.

SHAPIRO: Cathy Lanier is police chief of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department. Thank you very much.

Chief LANIER: All right, thank you.

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