WASHINGTON – D.C. officials called Thursday's Supreme Court decision striking down the city's gun ban “disappointing” and said they will craft new regulations to be as strict as possible.
The 5-4 ruling deemed D.C.'s prohibition on hand guns,which has existed for more than 30 years,unconstitutional. The case was the first dealing specifically with the interpretation of the Second Amendment in 70 years.
“As mayor,although I am disappointed in the court's ruling,and believe as I have said for the past year that more handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence,it is important to both respect the court's authority,and then to act quickly,” Mayor Adrian Fenty said at a press conference outside the John A. Wilson Building,the city's government headquarters.
Fenty said the Metropolitan Police Department is already putting together a process for residents to register handguns. He said the police department has 21 days to draft regulations. After that residents will be able to buy a gun and keep it at home.
“We will do everything possible through the crafting of these regulations to make sure that only responsible people have the regulations,” Fenty said,”and that they are used only in their home as they are safely stored. Nonetheless,it is impossible for us to be naive given what we have seen happen for too long in the cities of this country,and so that's why we are disappointed with the ruling.”
D.C. handgun owners will still be required to register their firearms,and it will still be against the law to carry a handgun outside of the home,officials said. Automatic and semiautomatic weapons will remain illegal.
“This is not open season with handguns,” said Interim Attorney General Peter J. Nickles. “We are going to strictly regulate the registration of handguns.”
Vincent C. Gray,D.C. council chair,said the council plans to impose the most “restrictive handgun regulation provisions that the Constitution permits.”
Fenty said the city will grant an “amnesty period” to residents who already own unregistered handguns,so they can register them without fear of being punished for owning them when they were banned.
The decision came two weeks after police concluded motorist checkpoints in the Trinidad neighborhood in the city's northeast quadrant after a slew of violent crimes. The District of Columbia has had 85 homicides in the last year.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said everyone who registers a handgun will receive a free trigger lock device. She encouraged gun owners to use them.
Nickles said the city might impose a requirement that all registered handguns use a trigger lock during storage.
“To me,this is perfectly allowable under the Supreme Court's decision,and it's something that ought to be done sooner rather than later,” he said.
Alan Gura,the lawyer who argued the case against the District on behalf of a security guard who wanted to bring his gun home,said the opinion was gratifying.
“The court did its duty today to guard our individual rights against excessive intrusion,” he said.
He said he believes it would be in D.C.'s power to impose a safe storage law.
“If the mayor wants the city council to have an actual law that deals with safety,then he's welcome to it,” he said.
Fenty said that during the next 21 days,possessing a firearm will still be illegal,but Lanier said officers will use “discretion” if they discover a person keeping a handgun at home.
Fenty said he believes the District residents oppose the decision nearly unanimously.
“There are legal guns and illegal guns that make their way into the hands of criminals,” he said. “What we believe,and this is supported by law enforcement,and specifically our chief,is that in the same way that illegal handguns move through the black market,legal handguns will also move through the black market.”