It is fascinating to watch the many reactions to the Heller decision. Perhaps the most obvious is that various print and electronic media, notably CNN, are now suddenly discussing these matters under the umbrella of “gun rights” when they used to say “gun control.” It’s good to see a more correct term in the headlines.
In Washington, DC, the city has reluctantly begun some foot-dragging compliance. They’ve announced that they’ll begin gun registration for handguns (required by a city law untouched by the decision). Moreover, since the city apparently has another law that bans semiautomatic firearms, only revolvers (and, presumably, single shot pistols and two-shot derringers) will be approved. DC Metro Police are issued 18-shot 9mm Glock 17 semiautomatics to protect the citizenry, but to DC lawmakers, I guess that’s neither here nor there. The fact remains that there is no genuine gun retailer in the District of Columbia where law-abiding citizens of the city can purchase any sort of the handguns now allowed there by the SCOTUS decision.
Word is, there is exactly one FFL (Federal Firearms License, for dealers) in Washington, DC. It was issued to Josh Sugarman, a high-profile gun ban advocate, attached to the Sarah Brady-inspired Violence Policy Center. He may have acquired it to gain entry into the SHOT Show, the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show that is the annual Big Event in firearms retailing. He may have acquired it to make some sort of obscure statement. He may have acquired it to allow his friends in the anti-gun movement to buy guns through him in the city, since that sort of hypocrisy is known to run rampant among those people. I honestly don’t know.
However, since the authority that issues and supervises FFLs, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) reportedly requires FFL holders to do transfers for law-abiding customers, there is a movement afoot among “real” FFL-holders to contact the agency and have Sugarman held to account and required to do so, on pain of losing his license. A “transfer” is what occurs when an individual legally acquires title to a firearm by paying for it in another state, whether in person or through an Internet purchase or auction. The gun is shipped by the seller to an FFL in the purchaser’s jurisdiction, and the individual purchaser then takes possession through the locally licensed dealer, filling out the 4473 form there, and paying a reasonable fee for the transfer. This is required since it is against Federal law for a private individual to purchase a handgun in another state, which is why the newly re-entitled DC residents can’t just drive to a gun shop in Maryland or Virginia and leave with a home defense revolver.
Will stubborn DC officials use such details in hopes of keeping their law-abiding citizenry disarmed? Well, do bears go potty in the woods? It will be interesting to see how this works out.
The Heller decision was certainly long overdue. When Morton Grove, Illinois became the first municipality to pass a law banning handgun possession, gun owners’ rights activists tried to take it to SCOTUS, and failed. Jervis Anderson, in his anti-gun treatise “Guns In American Life” (Random House, 1984) wrote, “The gun-control movement might also draw a measure of comfort from what the Supreme Court eventually decided about the case of Morton Grove…(after the US Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld the ban,) The Supreme Court remained silent on the matter, however. In October of 1983, it, in effect, dismissed the N.R.A. petition, by declining to rule on the opinion delivered in March by the United States Court of Appeals in Chicago.”
The Supreme Court of the United States has fixed that now.
Better late than never.