Terrance Heath

What If They Had a Gun Registry...

Filed By Terrance Heath | July 18, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: gun laws, Supreme Court ruling, Washington D.C.

And nobody came? This was apparently the case with the D.C. gun registry, following the Supreme Court decision.

With the ban lifted after a momentous, years-long legal battle that led to the landmark high court decision last month, here's how many applications the city received by day's end: one.

Bracing for a crowd at the registration office, at police headquarters on Indiana Avenue NW, officials set up a reception counter in the lobby and used portable metal railings to reserve one of the building's entrances for "gun registry applicants." Officers stood guard at the door, and a dozen reporters and TV cameras were waiting expectantly at 7 a.m., when the registration process was to begin.

But in the eight hours that the office remained open, there was no crush of people eager to avail themselves of the newly affirmed right to own a revolver in the nation's capital. Police gave out 58 registration packets to people stopping by for the materials. But only two people showed up to apply to register handguns, and one was turned away by police officials because he didn't bring his weapon with him, as the registration rules require.

And the beauty part?

The would-be applicant who was turned away was Capitol Hill resident Dick A. Heller, whose lawsuit prompted the Supreme Court ruling that scuttled the city's strict firearms control laws.

Seems Mr. Heller was unaware that he would need to show the handgun he wanted to register to the authorities, and allow it to be test-fired as part of the process. His two handguns were stored with a friend in Maryland. So he would have to bring them across the District line, and was apparently advised not to do so without written permission (though it would have been legal). My guess is that his adviser (from the Bill of Rights Foundation) realized that the situation was already embarrassingly newsworthy without Heller also getting pulled over and questioned about bringing weapons into D.C.

I laughed for 10 minutes after reading that.

We haven't heard the last of this guy, though. When Heller does manage to get his guns into the District, he probably won't like the newly revised regulations.

zz4fc0e414ag7.jpgThe gun bill establishes regulations for residents to keep handguns in their homes legally to comply with last month's historic Supreme Court decision that found the city's 32-year prohibition of handguns unconstitutional.

City leaders say the legislation goes as far as it can on gun regulations while respecting the high court's ruling. Weapons must be unloaded, disassembled or trigger-locked, except when there is a "threat of immediate harm to a person" in the home.

The legislation also requires that guns remain inside homes. It requires eye and written exams for gun owners, and ballistics tests conducted by police.

And not just that. This guy, and his backers, want semi-automatic weapons next. My guess is they want to keep them assembled, fully loaded, trigger unlocked, and tucked under a pillow. Maybe just take a truckload of Uzis, back it up to the National Mall, dump them out, and let everyone go for whatever they want. Maybe by the time all is said and done, D.C. will be like Geuda Springs, Kansas, where the law mandates that citizens own guns and ammunition. They can be fined $10 for noncompliance. I wonder what happens if a resident repeatedly refuses to buy a gun, and refuses to pay any fines. Come the revolution, could people be arrested for not owning a gun? Does the right to bear arms also imply a freedom not to bear arms?

I don't pretend to know, and the suggestions above are nearly ridiculous (but in one case, very real) extremes. So, I'll ask the same question I asked before that I don't remember being answered: to gun rights advocates, what would you consider to be "reasonable" gun laws?

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Nathanial | July 18, 2008 4:57 PM

Well, Terrance, you quote the following: "The would-be applicant who was turned away was Capitol Hill resident Dick A. Heller, whose lawsuit prompted the Supreme Court ruling that scuttled the city's strict firearms control laws," but you neglect (or weren't aware of) the following information (taken from: http://www.mysocalledgaylife.com/usa/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3769&Itemid=66 ) :
"Tom G. Palmer was one of six plaintiffs who won a 2 to 1 ruling on Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit when it disagreed with a U.S. District judge that the federal Second Amendment protected no individual rights.
Palmer told the court that as 'a gay man' he'd 'been assaulted on account of his sexual orientation and successfully warded off the assault with a handgun.' "

Although we both live in Canada -- not the States -- a friend of mine commented thusly on the court ruling: "As I've said many times before, if you live in an war zone then arm yourself ... The USA is a war zone (mostly of their own making with their foolish interpretation of the 2nd amendment.)"
I'd say that is even MORE applicable to the case of queer folks. As Pink Pistols says, "Armed gays don't get bashed."
Here's another story for you: http://www.365gay.com/Newscon08/06/062808gun.htm
I own a gun, Terrance -- in fact, I own *two*... I also live in a rural wilderness area, mind you. I don't carry my gun with me on a regular basis, though, because as a gay man living in Canada, for the most part I don't feel I need to. If I was a gay man living in a large American city, though, my attitude might very well be different.

I would say reasonable laws could include a registration of hand guns and rifles with a ballistics profile on file. Exorbitant registration fees are unacceptable. Trigger lock and unloaded when not in personal possession, ok. No possession by known felons. Must issue license to carry to adult citizen with no felonies, known dangerous mental health issues or chemical addictions but requiring a safety course that includes a demonstration of basic ability to use the firearms. Private organizations and property owners can declare no carry zones as can event organizers when the event is contained in a defined space. No carry zones include any business who has a primary purpose of the serving of alcohol(bars not restaurants),courts, jails and schools. Other public facilities not to automatically be no carry zones and any attempt to create a no carry zone on public property must receive public hearing and be decided based on public safety issues. No possession of loaded, unlocked firearms while intoxicated (same tests and blood alcohol levels as for driving). Increased penalty for the commission of a crime while in possession of a firearm. Requirement to report stolen or missing firearms.
I would consider these to be reasonable. One of the reasons that we resist so much in the way of regulation is that some people try to over regulate so that it becomes impossible to practically keep guns. We see what happened in Australia with the process of slowly regulation step by step until the populace was completely disarmed and we balk at it. We act reasonably and it is countered with unreasonable demands and you end up with us resisting everything. Not all of us toe the party line of the NRA but many of us are members because without them we feel that we would lose any and all gun rights.

My favorite suggestion for everyone who thinks "guns" are the problem and not the actual criminals...

Post a sign on your front lawn that says:

"We have no Guns in this home, and do not believe in the inherent natural right to self-defense."

Long live the 2nd Amendment, nay be the next pull peddling bureaucrat to attempt to squelch our natural right to self-defense.

It is so sarcastically refreshing to see that those who wish only to exercise their right to self-defense in a city where bureaucrats created an environment ripe for never-ending bloodbaths is so laugh out loud funny. -

Damn, who-da-thunk home invasions, rape, aggravted assualt was so hysterical?

It always amazes me that as a community we are exposed to increased violent usurpations of bigoted individuals, yet fear an item which can help secure our rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happines__., and instead expect a piece of legislation, printed words on paper, i.e. "Hate Crimes Laws" to guard against perpetrators of violence.

Down with the Plutocratic Oligarchy of aristocratic politicians who pretend to care about our safety, but really could give a rat's ass about anything outside of their own grasp on power.

Don't Tread on Me

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 19, 2008 1:39 AM

I think that we should adhere to the second amendment and have single shot pistols and rifles as in the Colonial period. Even though none at all would suit me better.

We see what happened in Australia with the process of slowly regulation step by step until the populace was completely disarmed and we balk at it. We act reasonably and it is countered with unreasonable demands and you end up with us resisting everything.

But do you see what happened in Australia, or do you just believe the propaganda of the NRA. You have made it clear that you have no idea what happened in Australia by stating, "process of slowly regulation step by step until the populace was completely disarmed". In fact the number of firearms and firearm owners in Australia hasn't diminished greatly at all with the regulations brought in after the Port Arthur massacre. What has diminished greatly though is the rate of firearms used in crime, firearms used as a murder weapon AND since the enforcement of the regulations no other mass homicide using firearms has taken place, and Port Arthur was 12 years ago.

Most firearms are owned by responsible people in Australia simply because they are harder to get with tighter regulations on the use, the storage and the types of firearms that are allowed to be kept outside of registered premises. Pro-gun Americans are simply misinformed by a powerful right wing lobby group.

Robert Ganshorn said: "Even though none at all would suit me better."

Last time I checked compulsory gun ownership was not taking place, so it looks like you are a-okay.

Furthermore, the inherent right to self-defense is not a 18th Century construct.

It exists in perpetuity, and as the criminals are thus armed better today than in the 18th Century, so should the public have the same access to firearms.

In the end, if we could go back and see to it that firearms were never invented, that would be good. Whilst we are at it lets make sure the atom bomb never sees the light of day either.

However since we live in the real world, let us acknowledge that weapons will not cease in their existence so as adults, we should learn to live with that reality.

It exists in perpetuity, and as the criminals are thus armed better today than in the 18th Century, so should the public have the same access to firearms.

Have you ever stopped to consider just exactly why the criminals are armed better today? Perhaps not, after all most supporters of the 2nd Amendment don't stop to consider that because they are too caught up in their 'right' to own firearms. Perhaps if firearms were harder to get, as they are in Australia, then less criminals would have access to them and there would be less "need" for people such as yourself to re-enact some scene from a crappy western. Get a grip on reality and face the fact that the more gun owners there are, the more firearms that will be available to the criminal element of society.

Cathi, since you have obviously looked closely at Australia can I ask you some things. What types of guns were regulated away from citizens? Is the process a complicated paperwork process and is it an expensive process? If some firearms are still allowed, how may one own a firearm in Australia, what firearms are allowed and who may own one?
I'm not challenging what you say but I would like to be clear on the details.
As you see from my post above, I'm not opposed to firearm regulation though I am opposed to disarming the populace through "gun control" and I have no problem with my own guns being registered etc.
I have even considered having by own ballistics profiles done on my guns in case they are ever stolen.

Cathi, since you have obviously looked closely at Australia can I ask you some things. What types of guns were regulated away from citizens? Is the process a complicated paperwork process and is it an expensive process?

There are very few restrictions on the type of firearms people can own and use. I myself have a professional shooters license and use an old army issue 7.62 L1A1 semi automatic when shooting donkeys or camels up in the north west of Western Australia (very rarely because I am actually a programmer and don't get to do the fun things at work like aerial shooting too often). The only thing you have to do is to prove that the firearm is essential to your purposes. Obviously donkeys won't go down with a 22 and so I am allowed to own and use that particular firearm.

People that don't have a legitimate reason can't get firearms of a large caliber, nor can they posses semi automatics nor handguns. Even then you must have a place to shoot the firearm, eg farm or club

If however you are a sporting shooter and are registered at a gun club, you may own handguns but not remove them from the premises unless transporting them for the reason of competition. Similar rules apply for pump action shotguns and side by side or over and under shotties.

Essentially if someone could show a legitimate need for an M60, they could own one.... except I can't think of any reason to own one outside of the military. Lets face it, if you can't demonstrate a need, then you just don't need one.

All firearms that are not stored in a registered armory must be kept in an approved and locked gun safe and local regulations state that they must also have the firing pin and ammunition stored separately. It is an offense not to report a lost or stolen firearm immediately and penalties for owning or using a firearm without the appropriate license or registration is treated very severely by the courts.

The process itself is not too complicated and all I had to do at work was complete a course in firearms use. For average people buying small caliber bolt action or single shot rifles, they need to have a letter either from a farm or station owner giving them permission to use the firearm there, or have a shooting club membership, fill in a a few forms and pay the fees for a personal license and a firearm registration. It is up to police then to do a background check and as long as you aren't certifiably insane or have a violent criminal record, then all is good. If you are going to store the firearm somewhere other than a shooters club or registered armory the police may request to view the safe it will be kept in to ensure that it conforms to standards.

I will say that I believe the 2nd Amendment of the US constitution is one of the stupidest laws ever put into place and quite frankly only a stupid nation would allow it to remain on the statutes.

Thanks for the info, Cathii. I'd call those reasonable regulations.

Cathi, after reading your post I looked up some info on Australian gun laws in different parts of Australia etc. They are far better than I had been told and I see that people can have guns. My only issue with the laws is that basically if you have a gun in your home it really doesn't seem to be in a way that can allow it to be used to defend yourself or your family. It seems that gun stored in the home has to be quite nearly disabled at least in some areas.
I have to disagree with you on the second amendment issue, but my support of the issue should be understood in the context of our history. In the battle against colonialism we relied upon citizens and the privately owned firearms that the citizens owned and used. And IMO the right to own firearms stands in the way of American citizens and abuse by criminals. Many lives are saved by legally owned guns every year in this country and in states where laws are enacted allowing for easier access to defensive firearms, crime rates have dropped, Florida and Michigan both being examples. And most guns used to commit crimes are not legally owned by the criminals who commit these crimes. Laws designed to disarm people only effectively disarm those who abide by the law. Criminals are unaffected by those laws and so become the only people who are armed.
As I said earlier, I am in favor of reasonable regulation but not disarmament of the populace. From what I was able to research about the regulations in Australia today I would consider most of those measures reasonable if they were enacted in my country. My only issue would be the idea that in order to use a firearm in defense of my home I would not want to have to assemble it. I can unlock a safe, remove a trigger lock and load any of my guns very quickly and that is three steps. I would hate for the firing pin to be removed from my weapons when they have already been reasonably secured so that they cannot be used on impulse or by a child. That is my only issue with the regulations.
My personal experience is two-fold, my adoptive father was shot and killed by a legally owned firearm when I was a child, I was there and it was not an accident it was an intentional act. I also used a handgun to defend my home when I was a single parent and had two toddlers still in diapers sitting beside me. If the person invading my home and I had had fought, those children would have been in more danger.
It has been an interesting conversation and thank you for clearing up details about Australian gun regulation, I am disappointed with the misinformation that I was given. But I also see by looking at some of the various reports about gun related suicides and crimes in Australia many of the various groups have played with the information also and some of those reports have been ripped apart as to the significance of the data.

My only issue would be the idea that in order to use a firearm in defense of my home I would not want to have to assemble it.

We don't need to defend our homes with guns so it really doesn't matter if they are in pieces. The fact is that if a criminal owns a gun, either legally or illegally, he is more than probably into far more serious things than Break and Enter. I would directly attribute that to the fact that you can't just walk into Walmart and buy a gun in Australia (besides the fact that we don't have Walmart that is lol )

But I also see by looking at some of the various reports about gun related suicides and crimes in Australia many of the various groups have played with the information also and some of those reports have been ripped apart as to the significance of the data.

As they say, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

Another point to make is that most gun related death in Australia IS with a registered firearm and usually it is the owner that is the culprit. Although it is usually the case that the victims are either themselves (suicide) and/or their immediate family members. No amount of reasonable gun control will stop people being killed, but I think if you look at the raw data over the full 12 years since the Port Arthur massacre it is obvious that it does have a positive effect.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 20, 2008 2:38 AM

I knew Chicago before gun restrictions and after them. I cringe at the return of guns to the city because it is only one step to the street. Guns also get stolen from homes in home robberies and get used in crime. For all the talk about locking them up kids walk into schools with them. Because of the right to own guns school districts need to spend money on metal detectors instead of books.

In Florida they were taking potshots at people who failed to exceed the speed limit. Oh yeah, gimmie guns!

Can I put a sign out in my front yard saying that I don't believe in inherent natural rights?

What gets me about the pro-gun folks, and where they always lose me, is this notion that the good guys and the bad guys are two monolithic and easily distinguishable groups. But they're not. The guy who sold the VA Tech shooter his gun obviously couldn't tell that he would end up being a bad guy.

So why not arm everyone so that both slaughters and everyday life turn into shoot-outs? I dunno, I live in a country that has pretty much banned guns and they have a much lower murder rate than the US. I wonder how that works.

Alex, what country do you live in? I've never presented anything that says the good guys and the bad guys are easily distinguishable groups, one of the reasons that I keep my own guns and want others to have them is because history shows us a great many times when the good guys become abusive and oppressive, I've seen cops get completely out of hand. The potential from monstrosity exists in us all.
As to the VA shooter, no the seller had no way of knowing what he would end up doing with the weapon, but the primary breakdown in the system that led to the shooter was not that he was able to buy a gun legally, in most places in the world you can get a gun if you have enough money and are willing to deal with the black market, so it isn't reasonable to hold that gun control laws would have stopped him. He could have gotten a gun illegally. The primary breakdown was that this guy had been reported and examined for mental health issues and mental health professionals had decided that he was not enough of a danger to himself or others to be removed from the streets and treated. He was not a sudden unknown nut-case who went down and bought a gun and started shooting. He had a record of mental health issues related involvement and his potential for harming others and himself had not been addressed by professionals charged with preventing this sort of thing. He could have just as easily built bombs from kitchen supplies, or grabbed a knife or a baseball bat or derailed a high-speed train.
The way that it works is very cultural and not just related to the presence of guns in a society. Studies linking guns or the reduction of guns to increases or decreases in crime or murder are often so scientifically dishonest that they become useless and so demonstrate nothing of a cause and effect. There are some cultures where murder is more acceptable and more of an option. Unfortunately my country has a culture where killing others is more of an option, not something that I am happy about just a fact. It isn't just guns, we kill more people with knives, bare hands, cars, baseball bats etc.
I guess that from my perspective it isn't about the tool being used because any tool can be used, it is about an ever increasing culture of violence which causes my countrymen and I to reach for weapons. I do believe that a person has a right to not be killed, a natural right to life and so a person has a human right to defend his or her life. I also believe that a person has a right to employ a tool in that defense in a reasonable manner without excessive force. If you do not believe in an inherent human right to not be killed by another, I just don't see where we can ever come to terms with the positions of one another. What appalls me is that in my culture we have a situation where people are constantly placed in the position of having to fight for our lives and wellbeing. My belief is that in the Unites States we need to drastically overhaul our legal system and law enforcement system.
It bothers me that the way that violent crime was reduced in Florida and Michigan was to increase the potential for violence and that the criminals lowered their violent behavior only when it was made easier for citizens to be armed in a concealed manner and those citizens began to fight back.
I see it as a massive problem with guns only as a tool and their use only as a symptom, I don't see them as the cause. I am also very historically aware and shy of a repeat of the last time my country tried to suddenly remove something from our population for our own good. Prohibition in the US set up an atmosphere of violent organized crime and illicit activities which continues to haunt us today.