Gun Shops Await New D.C. Rules

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 30, 2008

D.C. resident Anthony Mason walked into Atlantic Guns in Silver Spring on Friday afternoon and asked a question the staff had heard all day: "How can I buy a small handgun?"

"With the overturn of the gun ban," the retired Metrobus driver began to explain to the sales associate behind the counter.

"We're telling everyone to wait 30 days," said Atlantic manager Dale Metta, something he's repeated dozens of times in the past few days. "We can't do anything until the D.C. government says, 'These are the rules.' "

Gun shops in suburban Maryland and Virginia felt an immediate impact from the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Thursday that the District's handgun ban is unconstitutional. City leaders said it would take about three weeks to iron out the details: Which kinds of guns will be legal, and how will the registration process work?

But with the court clearing the way for D.C. residents to legally arm themselves, many wasted no time.

Mason and about 50 other people called or came into the Atlantic as of Friday after the ruling. The well-stocked gun store next to a tattoo and body-piercing shop is about a half-mile from the District border, making it one of the gun shops closest to the city and among the busiest after the ruling. It's been in the same brick, one-story building since 1955.

"We've had a lot of people inquiring," Metta said. "What's happening now is a huge history maker."

He said his best-selling handguns are Glocks, Berettas and Rugers, which cost $350 to $700. People usually say they want them for self-defense, or sometimes as collector's items, he said.

Mason, 53, who lives in the Brookland area, was looking to buy a gun for his wife, who works at a hair salon that was recently burglarized.

"I would feel more comfortable knowing she can protect herself if I'm not there," Mason said.

Having a gun around his house offers him a measure of security, he said.

"If people looking for trouble know you have protection, they'll usually move on," he said.

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