Lawmaker’s signs promote ‘Gun Free DC’ in wake of court ruling


(Office of D.C. Council member Tommy Wells)

Behold the first artifact of a city coming to terms with its new firearms normal: Not 72 hours after a federal judge ruled the District’s ban on the carrying of handguns to be unconstitutional, the office of D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) has created signs for business owners interested in keeping guns off their property.

The signs, created by Wells aide Julia Robey Christian, feature a D.C. flag motif with crossed-out silhouettes of handguns replacing the stars. Underneath: “This establishment proudly supports a GUN FREE DC.”

“A number of business owners said, ‘I really want to put something in my window that says I don’t agree with this,'” Christian said Tuesday. “People can, at least when it comes to their own personal private property, have a say in what they find to be permissible on their premises.”

Under city law, “Private persons or entities owning property in the District of Columbia may prohibit or restrict the possession of firearms on their property,” with an exception for law enforcement personnel who are “lawfully authorized to enter onto private property.” That law is unaffected by the new court decision.

It’s not clear whether any business owners have posted the signs. Scott Magnuson and Shaaren Pine, the owners of the Argonaut tavern on H Street NE, said Tuesday they have every intention of posting the signs but had not yet done so. Pine said she liked Christian’s design but would like it even more if there were a version without the handgun silhouettes. “We’re a family friendly restaurant,” she said.

In any case, the matter may be moot for at least a few months. The gun ruling was stayed for 90 days Tuesday, meaning the District’s carry ban will persist until at least October.

Note that Wells, as chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, will play a leading role in rewriting the carry law should efforts to extend the stay pending an appeal not succeed.

Meanwhile, while a variety of District officials have expressed dismay with the ruling and have made calls for an appeal, one D.C. Council candidate said that would be foolhardy.

Kris Hammond, a Republican running against Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), said Tuesday that an appeal would be a “waste of taxpayer money” and that the city would be better served by carefully rewriting its laws to comport with the ruling — perhaps, he suggested, to match over cities with strict carry policies like Chicago and New York.

“If the District wants the strictest laws that are constitutional, they should look to these other jurisdictions rather than fight this out in court,” said Hammond, a former Justice Department lawyer.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.
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Mike DeBonis · July 29, 2014