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Since D.C.'s handgun ban ended, well-heeled residents have become well armed

Michael Grinage, 54, holds a handgun he bought after the city began allowing ownership. He keeps it loaded in a gun safe.
Michael Grinage, 54, holds a handgun he bought after the city began allowing ownership. He keeps it loaded in a gun safe. (The Washington Post)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 8, 2011; 12:09 AM

In the 2½ years since the U.S. Supreme Court ended the District's handgun ban, hundreds of residents in Washington's safest, most well-to-do neighborhoods have armed themselves, registering far more guns than people in poorer, crime-plagued areas of the city, according to D.C. police data.

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Since the landmark court ruling in June 2008, records show, more than 1,400 firearms have been registered with D.C. police, most in the western half of the District. Among those guns, nearly 300 are in the high-income, low-crime Georgetown, Palisades and Chevy Chase areas of Northwest.

In all of the neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River - a broad swath of the city with more than 52,000 households, many of them in areas beset by poverty and drug-related violence - about 240 guns have been registered.

Although police declined to identify gun owners, citing privacy rules, they provided a breakdown by age, sex and location, from the start of firearms registration in July 2008 to the end of 2010. Of the 1,400-plus weapons, more than 1,000 are handguns, mainly semiautomatics, and the rest are rifles and shotguns.

In the 20016 Zip code, encompassing some of the District's wealthiest enclaves in upper Northwest, 151 firearms have been registered. That is more than 10 percent of the citywide gun total in an area with about 14,000 households, according to U.S. Census data.

No other residential Zip code in Washington has seen as big an influx of legal guns since the ban was ruled unconstitutional.

"Mine are loaded - locked and cocked - right where I can get them," said one gun owner in the 20016 Zip code. He is a 64-year-old K Street lobbyist who lives in the affluent Spring Valley neighborhood with his wife and teenage daughter.

"Crime is down to the lowest level, but people always feel insecure," he said. "And when you have responsibility for your family, you have to be prepared."

The lobbyist, an Army special forces veteran of the Vietnam and Afghan wars who retired as a two-star general, was one of five firearms registrants from different parts of the city who answered a reporter's query on washingtonpost.com.

All agreed to be interviewed, but some, including the former general, spoke on the condition of anonymity to guard their privacy.

Except for a burglary in the late 1980s, he said, he has never been a crime victim. He said he keeps two revolvers, two semiautomatic pistols and a Benelli 12-gauge "combat assault shotgun" in his home. The loaded ones are in a quick-opening gun safe in his bedroom closet. He said he wouldn't hesitate to use them.

In the Army, he said, he taught a course for Green Berets on how to make split-second shoot-or-don't-shoot decisions during raids in close quarters.


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