The District government appears to be headed for disaster as it prepares to craft policies to regulate handgun registration and licensing in response to the Supreme Court's decision declaring unconstitutional the city's absolute ban.
A hearing last week clearly showed that most members on the D.C. City Council want regulations tailored to discourage, to the point of infringement, the ownership of guns. That isn't surprising considering the handgun ban lasted 32 years, but the city's legislative body should get used to the new limits. Any regulations they pass will likely be the subject of a court action if they go too far.
The current idea is to legalize only revolvers and not semiautomatic pistols. This makes little sense. The notion that because the majority of criminals use semiautomatics to commit crimes, law-abiding citizens shouldn't have them is backwards thinking. Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Judiciary Committee admitted that the legislation introduced during the July 1 session was full of holes and unanswered questions.
The first hurdle is deciding how the city should change current law, and the easy answer is to simply repeal the ban. The second is determining how far the city should go in regulating how guns are stored and secured in the home, whether they will require the use of trigger locks or some other apparatus to secure the gun. Here the answer is clearly "no." How will they ever enforce that policy? If a homeowner shoots an intruder, are the police really going to be running around the house looking for a trigger lock?
Council members also want to look at a requirement that all handguns undergo a ballistic imprint or gun fingerprinting with the intent of helping solve gun crimes. There is already evidence that this is ineffective.
The Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division, in January 2005, issued a report on that state's gun fingerprint policy calling for its termination. "There have been no crime investigations that have been enhanced or expedited through the use of [Maryland Integrated Ballistics Identification System] MD-IBIS," the report said. "The program simply has not met the expectations and does not aid in the Mission statement of the Department of State Police." It would be foolish for the city to waste the more than $2.5 million our neighbors did on this system.
There also seems to be some idea that the city is going to be allowed to make residents wait indefinitely to receive their registrations. The city should set a time certain from when a gun is submitted for registration to when the registration is issued. They are already making it difficult by setting up registration hours at the Metropolitan Police Districts from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.. every day and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Aside from the time issues, should people untrained in handling firearms be bringing them into the police station?
Which brings us to the last point. Requiring people to take gun safety and usage courses is a good idea, but it isn't one that the council came up with. Go figure.