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Executive Office of the Mayor
District Government reacts to Heller Ruling
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, Interim Attorney General Peter Nickles, and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced their disappointment in today’s ruling of the United States Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Court ruled that District of Columbia statutes banning private handgun possession at home and requiring safe storage of firearms at home violate the Second Amendment.
“I’m disappointed in the Court’s ruling and believe introducing more handguns into the District will mean more handgun violence,” said Mayor Fenty. “But I want to emphasize that at this moment, our gun laws remain in effect. It may be several weeks before there are changes to announce.
“In the meantime, I have directed the Metropolitan Police Department to implement an orderly process for allowing qualified citizens to register handguns for lawful possession in their homes.
Fenty, Nickles and Lanier emphasized that they will continue vigorously enforcing other gun-control laws that the court did not disturb—including the law that all firearms including handguns must be properly registered with the Metropolitan Police Department—and considering other ways to lessen gun violence in the District.
“I commend the efforts of our legal team in presenting our side of this difficult and contentious issue,” said Interim Attorney General Nickles. “I will continue to direct the Office of the Attorney General to fight hard for the people of the District. While we were not successful regarding the handgun and safe storage laws, I am pleased that the court recognized that local jurisdictions like the District can adopt common-sense, reasonable regulations to protect their citizens against gun violence, and that the court left intact the District’s law requiring licensing of those who would carry handguns.”
The Mayor, Attorney General and Chief emphasized that the Supreme Court’s ruling is limited and leaves intact various other laws that apply to private citizens who would purchase handguns or other firearms for home possession. First, all firearms must be registered with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Firearms Registration Section before they may be lawfully possessed. Second, automatic and semiautomatic handguns generally remain illegal and may not be registered. Third, the Supreme Court’s ruling is limited to handguns in the home and does not entitle anyone to carry firearms outside his or her own home. In addition, although the Court struck the safe storage provision on the ground that it was too broadly written, firearms at home should be kept either unloaded and disassembled or else locked except for use in self-defense in emergencies.
“We will comply with the Court’s reading of the Second Amendment in its letter and spirit,” said Chief Lanier. “At the same time, we will continue vigorously enforcing the District’s other gun-control laws and are considering other ways to protect the District’s citizens against the scourge of gun violence.”
Under its rules, the Supreme Court will not formally issue its mandate for about a month to allow the parties to file rehearing petitions. After that period passes, the court of appeals will send the case to the district court to enter an injunction, though the district court will have to decide exactly how the injunction should be phrased. The injunction is the court order that will officially prevent the District from enforcing the handgun ban. That process may yet take several weeks.
In the meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police Department within three weeks days will issue the text of regulations to establish a process for registering handguns, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision. MPD will make clear how those who wish to register handguns should do so and what handguns may be registered. MPD will establish an amnesty period during which residents who already own handguns that were not registered previously can register them without fear of criminal liability under District law. Registration will proceed as expeditiously as possible but may need to await lower court orders implementing the Supreme Court decision.
MPD will keep the public informed of the date on which citizens officially can begin registering handguns. Citizens with specific questions are encouraged to contact the Firearms Registration Section at 202-727-4275.
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