Today is the first day that Washington, DC gun owners could register their handgun thanks to the Heller decision. Mr. Heller, the man who won Constitutional rights for the residents of the city, was right there ready to jump through the hoops. Except things didn’t go very well for him.
The city denied his registration because he didn’t bring his gun with him so it could be test-fired, as the city’s new law requires. His spokesman says he didn’t bring his unregistered guns to the police because he didn’t trust the city to play straight with him. As it turns out, he’s exactly right to be suspicious. The city is in direct disobedience of the Supreme Court’s crystal-clear opinion, as I pointed out in this post.
But then there’s another problem and here’s where the city is likely to find itself in court yet again.
Heller owns two guns. One of them is no problem because it’s a revolver. The other one is a a 7-shot .45 semiautomatic handgun and, according to the DC police, it’s illegal because it’s a machine gun.
No, I didn’t mistype that. Here’s the statement:
A spokesman for the DC Police says the gun was a bottom-loading weapon, and according to their interpretation, all bottom-loading guns are outlawed because they are grouped with machine guns. (Emphasis mine)
The bit I boldfaced is where the city is dealing dirty. The word “interpretation” implies that there’s some grey area in the law that allows the police department to make a judgement call. The DC Code, however, is quite specific. This is the definition of “machine gun” from the DC Code, Section 7-2501.01.
(10) “Machine gun” means any firearm which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily converted or restored to shoot:
(A) Automatically, more than 1 shot by a single function of the trigger;
(B) Semiautomatically, more than 12 shots without manual reloading.
There is nothing there at all about “bottom-loading” guns. The only restriction is on how many shots the gun will fire without reloading. Heller’s gun will only fire seven because the law requires the gun be stored unloaded and disassembled, which means he won’t be able to carry an eighth round in the chamber. It can not be “readily converted” to fire 13 shots. If the police in DC think it can, it has bigger problems than letting a law-abiding 66 year-old man keep a couple guns in his house.
The police department is wrong and its “interpretation” has nothing to do with the law. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see another court challenge happening very soon. Were I a DC resident, I’d be a little bit ticked off to know that my government is willing to throw more of my money into a losing court case to hold onto a law that is explicitly unconstitutional. Allah’s on the same track and asks:
How many millions of dollars in litigation expenses will it cost the District to fight, and lose, the next round of lawsuits instead of complying with the Court’s decision now in good faith?