The So-Called Capital of the Free World
Deconstructing the District's gun laws...
The handout describing the registration procedure for firearms in the
District of Columbia has a number of gems worthy of comment.
From page 5
Individuals may voluntarily surrender any firearm, ammunition, or
destructive device to the Police Department and shall be immune to
prosecution of any violation of this Act. Delivery may be made to
a police station or by requesting a police officer to your home or
place of business to collect it. All firearms should be unloaded
and wrapped in a package; and in the case of delivery to a police
facility, the package should be carried in open view. No
identification will be required of the person delivering and abandoning
the firearm to the police department.
are the classic "gun buy back" terms, except that the government isn't
offering any money for the firearms. They do offer immunity from
prosecution and complete anonymity, however. What's wrong with
this policy? Simple: it makes it much harder
to catch and convict criminals. If you were a criminal in DC, and
you had just shot someone with an illegal gun, what do you do? If
you are ever caught with that gun, it can be linked back to the murder
forensically. If you sell it to another criminal, they will tell
the police who they got it from rather than face the murder
charge. But the police have a solution for criminals facing this
conumdrum! Just turn in your gun anonymously right after you use
it! No chance of getting caught with it on you, and a new gun is
cheaper than a murder trial.
No person shall possess ammunition within the District unless:
- He is a licensed dealer.
- He is a holder of a valid registration certificate for a firearm of the same gauge or caliber as the ammunition he possesses.
- He holds an ammunition collector's certificate as of September 24, 1976.
That's right, folks. The District of Columbia
not only expects you to register your firearms, but they won't even let
you own ammunition if you don't own a firearm that can fire it!
Remember the case of Thomas Bean
, who went to jail because he forgot about a box of .22s in his car?
The inanity of having an "ammunition collector's certificate" need not be elaborated upon, merely mentioned in passing.
From page 4
Duties and Responsibilities of Registrant
- Every registrant must notify the Chief of Police in writing immediately of the following:
- Discovery of loss, theft, or destruction, of a registration certificate describing the circumstances.
- Any change of name or address recorded on the certificate.
- Sale, transfer, or other disposition of any firearm.
Or, in other words, once you register a firearm in the District of
Columbia, you have a permanent police file there, and you must keep it
updated in exactly the same manner a sex offender is required to register his location
. How's that for a chilling effect?
The registrant must have the registration certificate in his or
her possession whenever in possession of the firearm, and exhibit it
upon demand to a member of the Metropolitan Police Department or other
law enforcement officer.
No firearm shall be discharged in the
District of Columbia without first obtaining a special written permit
from the Chief of Police authorizing the discharge.
May I please have written permission to fire at this paper target, sir? bang
Please sir, may I have another?
Day 54 in the So-Called Capitol of the Free World
this, my fourth visit to the gun registration office, I planned to
quickly pick up my completed and approved application. Alas, said
application was not completed. I waited patiently while the office
applied the necessary numbers, stamps, and embossed seals to my
paperwork. On application of the 'APPROVED' stamp and city seal,
the 'application' becomes the 'registration' and they provide
you with three copies of same. You keep one with the firearm at all
times (including during transport), and turn another over to the
dealer. It is not clear what the third copy is for. None of the
copies is actually marked as to its' intended recipient or purpose.
Perhaps it's time to update the form? Also, the registration for
the firearm serves as the registration for the ammunition, but only
the ammunition of that same caliber. As a resident of DC it is
forbidden for me to possess ammunition for a caliber of gun which I
do not own and have registered. There is no separate process for
registering ammunition. It should be noted, that at this point the
officer kindly returned two of four passport photos as only two were
evening after work, I returned to the dealer to pick up the gun. In
the end, it took 54 days to get to the point where I could walk into
the gun dealer and officially take delivery of the gun. If you are
unemployed, you could probably get that down to 45 days. Of course,
I should point out that, before being handed the gun, I had to
undergo the very same instant NICS check that is sufficient for most
other American citizens. So, having to wait 54 days to do what most
any other citizen can accomplish in 15 minutes, what was I buying?
Was I buying an 8 round semi-auto 12 gauge? No. Was I buying a
Clinton tagged 'Assault Rifle'? No, the detachable magazine means
Homeland Defense Rifles are banned in DC. Did I buy a .50BMG sniper
rifle, of the type that has Senator Lautenbergs' panties in a
bunch? No. My fellow enthusiasts: I went through bureaucratic hell,
FBI fingerprinting, a full six week background investigation, and
paid $72.60 in fees and other costs (plus gas and parking for all
those trips to the registration office) to buy... drum roll please... a single shot hunting rifle.
to Washington DC, Capitol of the 'Free' World!
-- An Anonymous DC resident
Day 53 in the So-Called Capitol of the Free World
little before lunch, I got a call at work that my fingerprints were
back from the FBI, and that my application was ready to 'go to the
next step'. I politely pointed out that this was the last step and
that my application should be finished and approved. The officer
reviewed the contents of my file and agreed. Please note: from the
time you apply to register a firearm in the District of Columbia, the
police open a permanent file on you. So I asked when I could pick up
the completed application, the reply was that the completed and
approved registration paperwork could be picked up any time during
normal office hours.
-- An Anonymous DC resident
Day 16 in the So-Called Capitol of the Free World
third visit to the gun registration office, the plan was to submit
the necessary paperwork; PD 219, and the requested four (remember,
the handout says two) passport photos, and take the required written
test. After getting a list of charges at the gun registration office,
I waited in line at the cashier, and paid $35.00 for finger prints,
and the $13.00 registration fee.
the test. It is 2 pages -- 1 sheet front and back. I missed one
question about what the registration certificate actually entitles me
to buy. In effect, going through the registration process once allows
you to buy additional guns, but each must be registered in the manor
of the first. The fingerprinting, and background investigation are
only required the first time. The distinction between the paperwork
for the purchaser and the paperwork for each individual firearm is
muddy at best, and this is not explained in the Xeroxed
documentation. In short, for additional purchases, I go get a form,
go buy a gun, submit the form, and if the gun is acceptable to the
registration office, then I can pick up the gun.
I requested a copy of my finished test (for the purposes of this
writing), but this request was denied. No reason was offered. About
the test: The test had not a single question about firearm safety.
The test was purely about DC firearms laws, restrictions, and
definitions. Safe handling of firearms is, seemingly, not a concern.
this point, I thought I was done with my portion of the process. So I
asked, "Do you have everything you need?" The woman said she
thought so, but handed my file to the male officer who works there.
He glanced though my file and said that I still needed a notarized
certification of mental competence. It was difficult to maintain my
gracious attitude. Such a document was never mentioned before this
day. Of course, I had to explicitly ask for the appropriate form. The
'form' is just a Xeroxed sheet that you sign saying you haven't
been judged mentally incompetent in the last 5 years. At
point I figured I would have to leave to find a notary, sign it in
front of them, and get that signature notarized. In a rare moment of
helpfulness, the woman said she thought her friend upstairs was a
notary. She called the woman to verify. The woman came to me. I
thought this was very nice, until she informed me that there was a
$5.00 charge. Now, of course, any bank manager will notarize anything
for free if you have an account, but I figured $5.00 was a small
price to pay for not having to leave and make a return visit. The
notary happily accepted cash. You can draw your own conclusions from
that last fact.
leaving I sought to clear up some questions I had about permissible
firearms. The gentleman staffing the office seemed to be well
informed on the process, so I asked him. He couldn't or wouldn't
resolve the differences between what he personally claimed to be
banned, and what is actually covered by the law. He verbally placed a
magazine capacity limit of ten rounds on semi-automatic guns, and
also said that guns with 'pistol grips' would be denied. The only
written limit (in the law or the handout) I can find is 12 rounds,
and I can find no written reference to 'pistol grips'. Since
almost any hunting rifle has what manufacturers refer to as a 'pistol' grip (the drop behind the trigger) it's pretty clear
he's not so well informed. Presumably, he means any gun where the
magazine is inserted through a vertical grip. How enlarged thumb
holes (think Browning Buckmark rifle) are considered is an open
question. One sad thing that came from the conversation was that any
semi-auto even conceivably capable of handling more than 10 rounds is
banned, so for instance a Ruger 10/22 is verboten, even if you only
purchase it with the OEM 10 round magazine. Effectively, DC bans any
semi-auto with a detachable magazine -- although the officer refused
to actually say that when I pointed it out. You can draw your own
conclusions as to whether the officer is clearly over-stepping his
bounds. At this point I was told to expect the investigation to take
6 to 8 weeks, after which I would be approved or denied to take
delivery of the gun that I already paid for.
on the way out, I requested several, but was denied more than two,
blank PD 219's.
As of today the phone message still mentions the wrong hours, and I
again mentioned this to the officers on duty.
-- An Anonymous DC resident
Day 49 in the So-Called Capitol of the Free World
called the DC firearms registration unit to check on the status of my
application at 4:22pm. There was no answer. The recording still gives
the wrong office hours.
-- An Anonymous DC resident
Days 3-15 in the So-Called Capitol of the Free World
Over the next few days, I
ran errands to get the required USPS money orders (2@$0.90ea. =
$1.80) and the required passport photos ($17.80). I also bought a
gun, although 'bought' doesn't really convey the essence of the
transaction since I could not legally take delivery. I paid for a
-- An Anonymous DC resident
For some time now I have been following the Seegars v Ashcroft
and Parker v DC
cases. I've been following them because they are important cases to 2nd Amendment law. Our nation's capital ignores the 2nd Amendment and purports to ban handguns entirely, while permitting long guns to be owned and possessed only in non-functional condition (disassembled or trigger-locked) with no exceptions for self-defense use. That's enough to get anyone who believes in gun rights up in arms, and it's all that most people know about gun ownership in DC. And for the most part, it's all they need to know; for some strange reason, gun rights folks tend not to live in DC. (Gee, I can't imagine why...)
But just knowing the bare facts is not enough. The sickness in DC has penetrated much deeper than that.
I don't live in DC. I can't give you the firsthand perspective on what it is like to be a gun owner in America's gun control paradise. But thanks to the power of the Internet, and the kindness of strangers, I have a blogspondent who can. Please welcome Anonymous, who brings us The So-Called Capitol of the Free World
Day 2 in the So-Called Capitol of the Free World
Since the office opens at 7am, I went to the DC firearms registration office the next morning around 8am. I walked up to the counter / half door at the firearms registration office.
The uniformed DC police officer manning the office was on the phone. I did not interrupt her. I waited quietly and patiently. After about a minute she looked up and said, "I'm on the phone." I nodded, and continued to wait. She soon looked up again, and said: "I'm on the phone with my children, please have a seat in the hall." Now, as a DC taxpayer I was rather surprised and disappointed (a polite way of saying 'pissed-off') that she would be so bold as to ask me to wait while she conducted a personal call during normal business hours while sitting at her desk in the office she was paid to staff. That said, on this day, I needed her help, so I did as instructed: I sat in the hall and waited. Eventually a different woman, dressed in civilian clothes, came out into the hall and asked me what I wanted.
I told her I was there to look into legally buying a firearm, as a resident of DC. I said I was aware that firearms had to be registered but could find no relevant information on the DC government web site. She asked me how many guns I wanted to register. I said I didn't have any guns, I was interested in buying one and wanted to know the process and costs involved. She again asked how many guns I wanted to register. I again replied that I was not there to register a gun, I don't have a gun. I would like to legally purchase a gun, and I want to know the process for registering it and how much it will cost.
She then asked how many guns I wanted to buy. Now I'd just said 'a gun' at least three times, so at this point, I was starting to feel like I was stuck in a "Who's on first" style comedy skit. I was getting nowhere, and I was getting irritated. I asked a few simple questions about the process for registering a gun and the cost of doing so, and I can't get a single answer out of this woman. So I, still very politely, replied: "Well, let's say I want to buy and register ten guns". She looked at me with the kind of utter disdain usually reserved for people who kick kittens into electric fans. Clearly, this woman did not see her job as to register guns in compliance with DC law, but rather, she was acting like her job was to do everything possible to prevent people from buying and or registering guns in compliance with DC law.
Fortunately, the uniformed female police officer, having finished her personal phone call, came out into the hall and asked what was going on. I turned to her and, said I came to find out what the process was for buying and registering a gun, and to find out how much it costs. I continued: "but this woman won't answer my questions and just keeps asking me about how many guns I don't have." The uniformed officer led me into the office and gave me a (poorly) Xeroxed handout that (poorly) outlined the process and proceeded to give me a verbal overview. For a first gun purchase, you take form P.D. 219 to the gun dealer, buy a gun, have the dealer fill out their portion, you fill out your portion, and then bring the completed form to the gun registration office. You then get fingerprinted, and submit the completed form and fingerprint card, take a written test, then after six to eight weeks you come back and, assuming the application is approved, you get your paperwork returned stamped "APPROVED", and you can go back to the dealer and pick up the gun. She then told me the fee for fingerprints was $35.00 and the fee for each gun registered was $13.00. She also said I needed four passport sized photos. Now I had glanced at the handout, and the fees were listed as $26.50 and $10.00 respectively. I pointed out the difference, and she put out her hand to collect the Xerox. I handed it back, expecting her to give me an up-to-date version. She took a pen and scratched in the higher costs. (This may sound absurd, but in actuality, this woman's action is the only example of workplace efficiency ever documented in the history of the Washington, DC government.) Now, having noticed that there were no forms of any kind in the handout I was given, I then asked her if the gun dealers in the area typically have the required forms. She said she didn't know. So, I asked if I could get the forms while I was there in the gun control office. She said yes, but then, inconceivably, didn't actually offer to give me any. I REALLY felt like I should be looking for the hidden 'candid' camera at this point. Dealing with these women was like banging my head against a wall. I explicitly asked her if she would give me the necessary forms. She said yes and asked me how many guns I was going to buy. Now, the other woman, whom I'd already told I wanted to buy ten guns, was standing right there, so I said I wanted ten forms. The uniformed officer expressed that she didn't think it was a very good idea to buy ten guns. She then asked me if I had enough money for ten guns. At this point I was pretty much resigned to the fact that no staff member in the gun registration office wanted to actually do anything but discourage people from lawfully registering guns. So I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and I replied that I only planned to buy one gun at the current time, but would most certainly be buying more in the future. She then said, "Well then, you only need one form". I said, "What if I make a mistake on it? Could I please have a couple?" She handed me two. I asked for another (a third). She said, with a rather final tone in her voice, "I think two is enough." By this point, it was clear that the people in this office wanted this process NOT to go smoothly, so thinking I had everything I needed on my end I decided to leave.
I reviewed the handout while sitting in the hall, figuring any further questions would necessitate more return visits to this hell on Earth, so it was worth my time to get any further ambiguities cleared up this same day. Incidentally, the PD 219 (last revised in 1976) clearly states that the registration fee is $10.00. Perhaps it's time to update the form? The natural next move was to get the fingerprints done presently and be ready to submit everything once I'd purchased a gun. You, dear reader, should have already anticipated that it just couldn't happen that easily (This is DC after all): The fingerprint office doesn't open until 9am. Neither does the cashier's office open until 9am. At this point, I thought I should be getting to work, but decided to stick it out, rather than be late for work on another day as well. So, a little before 9am rolls around, I get in line at the cashier's office with all of the people paying for copies of their criminal records. Fun! Eventually it's my turn, alas: the 'cashier' doesn't actually accept cash, only money orders. (Knowing DC, they probably had too much cash going missing...). Of course, this fact was not mentioned up to this point. I am left with no choice but to leave and come back another time, money orders in hand.
Walking out of the building seemed like an opportune moment to reacquaint myself with one of my favorite sayings: "Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence."
Incidentally, they offer free gun locks, sponsored by the NSSF, but only for registered guns. Obviously, safety is not the primary concern, registration is. But again, that's DC's Motto: "Bringing you fifty years of liberal policy failure".
Sent to me from an anonymous DC resident.
Day 1 in the So-Called Capitol of the Free World
making the decision to go forward, I looked on the Washington DC
website: (http://www.dc.gov/) for information. No information was
readily available under the "Live in DC" or "Move to DC"
categories. After a site search, and following several tangentially
related links, I found the appropriate phone number [(202)-727-4275]
for the gun registration office. Please note that, being a member of
the NRA, I already knew about DC's draconian gun laws. A resident
new to the city would not readily have found anything on DC's
official website to indicate that handguns are banned outright and
that rifles, shotguns, and ammunition had to be registered 'immediately' upon entering the District. I only found the
information through a site search when already knowing what I was
called the number. No one answered. Eventually, I got a recording
that said the firearms registration office was open until 4:30
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, but on Wednesday was open
until 7pm. What luck, as today was a Wednesday, I would not have to
take off from work to go. I arrived just after 5pm to find the office
closed. I asked the guard on the way out what the real hours were. He
said they open early, but usually close up and leave by 4:30.
Oh well, looks like I
will have to miss some work hours. Fortunately, I'm a white collar
worker, and I have the flexibility to do so. A blue collar worker
would be looking at taking paid (or more likely, Unpaid) time off to
exercise his second amendment right to keep arms. Please note that
all private citizens are flat out denied the right to bear arms in
the nation's capital.
-- An Anonymous DC resident
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