Questions & Answers

Friday, June 27, 2008

Now that the District's gun law has been struck down by the Supreme Court, what can D.C. residents expect? A look at some key questions:

Why did the Supreme Court rule against the District?

In a 5 to 4 opinion, the court said that the law, widely viewed as the strictest in the nation, violated Second Amendment rights. In particular, the court said, people have the right to keep handguns in their homes for self-defense. The District's ban on handguns, passed in 1976, was too restrictive, the court said.

Will the decision have an immediate impact?

No, according to D.C. officials. They said the handgun ban will remain in effect for at least 21 days, during which time police will issue regulations for registering firearms. Among the issues to be sorted out: When will residents be allowed to start buying handguns? And what kinds of weapons will they be allowed to buy?

How will the registration process work? And will any D.C. resident be able to own a weapon?

All firearms must be registered with the police department. As is the case now with rifle and shotgun registrations, handgun registration will be restricted to people 21 or older who have not been convicted of a felony or gun-related crime or been in a mental institution for the past five years. Gun owners will be fingerprinted and will have to pass a written test on gun laws. Other restrictions will apply.

What about registered rifles and shotguns? Do they still have to be kept unloaded in the home? And do they still have to be disassembled or outfitted with trigger locks?

The Supreme Court said the District's current restrictions on shotguns and rifles kept inside the home are too broad. The D.C. law essentially rendered them inoperable when needed for immediate self-defense, the court said. City officials said they will enact new legislation to promote the safe storage of firearms in the home.

May people from Maryland, Virginia and other states bring guns into the District?

Not unless they move to the city and register their guns with D.C. police. Even then, the guns must be stored in their homes.

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