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Government and People
Council of the District of Columbia
Statement of Chairman Vincent C. Gray In Response to United States Supreme Court Decision in Heller v. District of Columbia
For more than 30 years, the District of Columbia has led the nation in adopting the most protective handgun restrictions allowed under the Constitution. These restrictions regulate the purchase, sale, possession, ownership, registration, transportation, importation, and manufacture of handguns. Do not expect that to change as the Council will continue to meet its obligation to protect the residents of the District of Columbia. Handguns and other dangerous weapons have been regulated in the District for more than 150 years, so I assure you that there will be some form of handgun regulation, and that regulation will be consistent with the Supreme Court decision.
We will use the Councilís recess to study the decision more carefully. This may include bringing in law enforcement professionals and scholars to assist us in crafting a comprehensive response to the courtís decision. We intend to preserve the most restrictive handgun regulation provisions that the Constitution permits and I will reserve the right to reconvene the Council to consider emergency action during our recess.
I have been advised that this decision has no immediate impact on our laws prohibiting the possession and use of guns outside of the home. There is no right to carry loaded handguns in the District. That has not changed. Nor will it. Under existing District law, only persons with valid gun registrations are even permitted to own ammunition.
The Supreme Courtís decision that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms only makes it possible for a particular District citizen to keep a handgun within his or her home. It does not prevent the District from placing restrictions on that right, and we intend to do just that. We will examine every option that is available. We already require the registration of rifles and shotguns, and we will require that handguns be registered. At minimum, we will enact legislation to apply registration requirements for handguns similar to those currently in place for rifles and shotguns. Components of the law may include registration requirements, minimum qualifications, criminal and mental background checks, medical clearance, training or test requirements, appropriate waiting periods, and procedures for transporting guns outside of the home.
We likely will look to other urban areas with extensive handgun regulations, such as New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, in determining the best approach for the District. The impact of this decision by the Supreme Court will be felt not only in the District. It will affect laws in other jurisdictions, such as Chicago, which banned handgun possession in 1982. Our law in this area had been settled for 30 years, and had survived challenges in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, We have always believed that the Firearms Control Regulations Act imposed reasonable restrictions on handgun ownership designed to preserve the safety of our residents and deter crime. We will be making changes to our laws necessitated by this decision with those goals still foremost in our minds.
Although I am disappointed by the courtís decision, working collectively with the Mayor, the Metropolitan Police, legal authorities, and residents, the Council will do all it can to prevent violence from escalating further as a result of todayís un-welcome weakening of our gun laws.
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