Some In D.C. Ready To Pull Trigger On Owning Gun

While officials in the nation's capital deal with the repercussions of last month's Supreme Court decision overturning the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, some residents are priming themselves for firearm ownership.

Many D.C. residents say they don't want guns sold or stored in the city – legally or illegally.

"I don't have a good feeling about it," says Zack Tramontana, a security guard in a D.C. apartment building.

But some in D.C. are considering purchasing a gun now that they are able to own one.

Tyrone Smith, a bike courier, says he's thinking of getting a gun now to protect him and his wife in the southeast part of the city.

"There's a lot of crime, a lot of violence in the District, especially in the areas where I live," Smith says. "Everybody has a right to protect themselves, you know what I mean? And D.C. took that right from us when they enforced that gun ban."

Sharon Boesen, a wife and mother of four, agrees with Smith. Having a gun at home is a basic right, she says. Boesen has shared her views publicly and she's been blasted online by some gun opponents. One blogger called her a redneck.

But, Boesen's Capitol Hill home has been broken into twice by burglars, and both times her family was home. Nobody got hurt, but she and her husband have been talking about getting a handgun — just in case.

Boesen grew up in Baltimore. Her family had guns at home.

"My father was a customs inspector," she says. "When I was in elementary school, he would take me to the firing range and I would take my targets to show and tell."

She's comfortable with the idea of teaching her children about firearms safety — just as she was taught.

Thirty miles outside the District, business is steady at the Blue Ridge Arsenal gun shop and range in Chantilly, Va.

Co-owner Deborah Curtis says D.C. residents often come out to rent a gun and use the range.

Since the court ruling June 26, her shop — like other gun shops in the region — has gotten calls from D.C. citizens who want to buy a gun immediately.

That won't be possible until the District has a process to register guns and a way to transfer firearms to the District. There are a dizzying number of issues to resolve over time: Will the city change its stance banning semi-automatic handguns? Who will do the background checks and how detailed will they be? Will owners be required to undergo training? Will they be able to transport guns in their cars to take to a training range?

"It's a complex issue," Curtis says. "It's not like opening a bagel shop."

The city's mayor and city council are wrestling with those issues. In the meantime, the city has set up a hotline to answer some basic questions.

Currently, there's nowhere to buy a gun in D.C. and no place for citizens to practice shooting in D.C. There's no zoning category that would allow such a place.

Allan Lucas wants nothing more than to help the city out.

He was a longtime D.C. police officer. Now he runs a security business and he's licensed by the city as a certified firearms instructor. But there is nowhere in the city he can take his students to practice.

On a recent day, he drives his van to one of the sites he'd love to turn into a small gun shop and range in the city. He's been trying to do this for three years.

"I found this little place ... at least 500 feet away from any residential [housing]," he says. There's no walking traffic whatsoever."

When Lucas looks out over this empty lot and warehouses, he sees a modular, soundproof, bulletproof building, a quiet, friendly place with lots of security and respect.

"I can envision the gun store and the office where they come in and register for the classes," Lucas says. "Upstairs and downstairs, a waiting room.... I can see it."

City officials will have to figure out what they can see and how to balance the court's ruling with the wishes of a citizenry that mostly disapproves of guns.

But they will have to balance restrictions against attracting more lawsuits, filed in the name of self-defense.

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