Some D.C. Residents Say It's Too Hard To Get A Gun The Supreme Court ruled last week that states and localities cannot ban handguns intended for self-defense. Washington, D.C., ended its gun ban two years ago, but some residents complain it's still too difficult to get a weapon. A D.C. councilman says the rules do what they're supposed to do -- identify the bad guys, and leave the good guys alone.


Some D.C. Residents Say It's Too Hard To Get A Gun

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Like Chicago, Washington, D.C. had to come up with a new law after the Supreme Court overturned its tough ban on buying handguns.

More than a thousand D.C. residents have taken advantage of it. Still, as NPR's Larry Abramson reports, many complain it's still too difficult to get a gun in Washington.

LARRY ABRAMSON: The toughest thing about getting a gun in D.C. is finding a gun store. There are none. You have to drive to a neighboring state...

(Soundbite of gunshots)

ABRAMSON: somewhere like Maryland Small Arms in Upper Marlboro, a store with its own firing range just outside the Washington Beltway. Salesman Jack Donald can sell you a gun, but you have to transfer it to someone with a federal firearms license in D.C.

Mr. JACK DONALD (Salesman, Maryland Small Arms): He takes possession of the gun from us, and he charges a transfer fee. I believe it's $125.

ABRAMSON: And then he gives your gun right back to you. But you're still not ready to go.

Mr. DONALD: You have to be fingerprinted. You have to submit photographs. You have to take a class that's supposed to consist of four hours of classroom and an hour of range time with an approved - District of Columbia approved instructor.

ABRAMSON: That can bring the cost of registering to over $500 - a lot of work and expense, but people do it all the time.

Mr. GEORGE LYON (Attorney): This is a Glock 31...

ABRAMSON: Attorney George Lyon lives in a high-ceiling row house in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of D.C. with his wife, his dog and his Glock. He was one of the plaintiffs in the suit that overturned the original gun ban, and he shoots regularly. He figured out how to get a handgun, but he says imagine a woman being stalked who fears for her life.

Mr. LYON: She has to go to the D.C. Police Department. She's got to take the test. She's got to have the background check. And she's go to wait 10 days while she could potentially be killed.

ABRAMSON: Compare that to nearby Virginia, where you can walk out with a gun within minutes of purchasing. Nevertheless, nearly 1,200 people have registered previously banned guns since the Supreme Court ruling two years ago.

D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson says that shows the regulations do exactly what they're supposed to do. They identify the bad guys, but they leave the good guys alone.

Mr. PHIL MENDELSON (Councilman, D.C. City Council): For the Metropolitan Police Department, when they find somebody with a gun, if the person doesn't have a registration certificate - which is typically the case - they can arrest the person on the spot because they know that person has an illegal gun.

ABRAMSON: But the man who started the whole hullabaloo, Richard Heller, says the current regs make a mockery of the court's decision. He's challenging everything, from the cost of the whole procedure...

Mr. RICHARD HELLER: It's unconstitutional to be forced to pay fees to exercise your constitutional right.

ABRAMSON: the limit on high-capacity ammunition clips. A district court has upheld the D.C. process, but Heller is appealing.

Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center says D.C.'s restrictions are true to what the Supreme Court has said: Cities do not have to license weapons deemed dangerous and unusual. That includes big ammo magazines.

Ms. KRISTEN RAND (Violence Policy Center): That is the thread that runs through every major mass shooting in America since the McDonald's shooting in 1984, is the perpetrator uses either a handgun or an assault weapon equipped with a high-capacity ammunition magazine.

ABRAMSON: What's happened to crime? Well, homicides were down in the first year after the ban ended. That's too soon to declare a trend, but predictions of blood on the streets have not come to pass, either.

Many gun foes here appear to have actually made peace with the ban on gun bans. Their biggest worry now is that Congress, which can overturn D.C. laws, keeps trying to nix the city's remaining gun limits.

Larry Abramson, NPR News, Washington.

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