The Supreme Court has struck down D.C.'s longtime ban on handguns, with a 5-4 ruling. Ruling can be read here. The question for city officials is: What now? In a recent interview (before the court ruled), Interim D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles was asked what would happen if the city lost the case.
He said that residents will not be able to buy a handgun and bring it to the city immediately following the high court's ruling. There will be a period of continued legal arguments before a lower court judge to hash out specifics around the high court's opinion, Nickles said.
In the meantime, Nickles said, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration will instruct the police department to issue new regulations within 30 days detailing the process for registering handguns. (The city has gun regulations already on the books, which have been largely moot because of the gun ban, but those rules likely would be updated and revised, he said.)
"All handguns have to be registered," Nickles said.
Among the likely regulations: Gun owners would have to be 21 or older (*) and could not have been convicted of a felony or any weapon-related charge or have been in a mental hospital for the past five years. Registrants also will be finger-printed and required to pass a written test to be sure they understand the city's gun laws, Nickles said.
At least initially, he added, residents would be limited to one handgun apiece. The city will set up a hotline for firearm registrations.
Nickles said he did not expect the court to undo the ban on automatic weapons.
One major question, he said, was whether the court would undo the city's trigger lock requirement that all shotguns in homes remain unloaded with locks on the triggers. If the court overturns that provision, Nickles said, the mayor's office likely would propose new legislation to the D.C. Council that would require that guns remain unloaded in the home expect in the case of self-defense.
Handguns would only be allowed in the home, Nickles added, with residents banned from carrying them on the streets or into other buildings.
For those folks who already own guns--against current law--Nickles said the city would offer an amnesty program in which they could come forward and register the gun, assuming it had not been used in a crime.
(* Corrected from previous version of the story that included the wrong age.)