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B19-614, Firearms Amendment Act of 2012 - REPORT

B19-614, Firearms Amendment Act of 2012 - REPORT

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Published by Martin Austermuhle

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Published by: Martin Austermuhle on Feb 29, 2012
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COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE REPORT
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004
DRAFT
 
TO:
 
All Councilmembers
FROM:
Councilmember Phil MendelsonChairman, Committee on the Judiciary
DATE:
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
SUBJECT:
Report on Bill 19-614, “Firearms Amendment Act of 2012”The Committee on the Judiciary, to which Bill 19-614, the “Firearms Amendment Act of 2012” was referred, reports favorably thereon with amendments, and recommends approval bythe Council.
CONTENTS
I.
 
Background and Need 1II.
 
Legislative Chronology 2III.
 
Position of the Executive 3IV.
 
Comments of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 3V.
 
Summary of Testimony 3VI.
 
Impact on Existing Law 3VII.
 
Fiscal Impact 4VIII.
 
Section-by-Section Analysis 4IX.
 
Committee Action 5X.
 
Attachments 5
I.
 
BACKGROUND AND NEED
Summary
 Bill 19-614, the Firearms Amendment Act of 2012, was introduced in response toconcerns raised by the Community Association for Firearms Education. The city requires, as aprerequisite to registering a firearm, that a registrant complete a minimum of four hoursclassroom instruction in firearms safety and one hour of firing range training. Yet, under Districtlaw, “it is impossible for firearms trainers to effectively teach firearm safety to members of thepublic within the city, and for DC residents to obtain that training within the city.”Even as introduced, Bill 19-614 actually deals more broadly with firearms regulation thanthe single issue of ensuring the availability of training within the District’s borders. TheCommittee has used this legislation to make a wide range of revisions to the law.
 
Committee on the Judiciary February 29, 2012Report on Bill 19-614 Page 2 of 27Bill 19-614 maintains core aspects of the District’s gun control law: (1) all firearms mustbe registered; (2) certain types of weapons (e.g., automatic weapons) are prohibited; and (3)potentially dangerous persons (e.g., ex-felons, the mentally ill) may not possess a firearm.Among the more noteworthy changes, the bill:
Enables firearms training within the District, both before and after registration;
Eliminates the ballistics test now required of each firearm as a component of registration;
Eliminates any vision requirement except for the legally blind;
Eliminates the required 4-hour training course (plus 1-hour on a range);
Delays microstamping until January 1, 2014 to give time for implementation inCalifornia;
Delays re-registration until January 1, 2014 to give time for implementation by theMPD;
Authorizes (but does not require) the Mayor to act as an FFL if no other FFL isoperating;
Eliminates most limitations on what ammunition a registrant may possess;
Strengthens the penalty for “cop killer” bullets; and
Gives the prosecutor and court discretion whether to try UF or UA as a non-criminalinfraction.
A short history of gun control in the District of Columbia
 The Committee has not undertaken an in-depth research of the history, but it is clear fromthe present law that Congress has long been concerned about gun violence in the nation’scapital. Two years before adoption of the National Firearms Act of 1934, Congress enacted “AnAct To control the possession, sale, transfer and use of pistols and other dangerous weapons inthe District of Columbia, to provide penalties, to prescribe rules of evidence, and for otherpurposes.” Although amended from time to time, this statute remains in effect and is codified asChapter 45 of Title 22 of the D.C. Official Code. Its provisions are frequently the basis for gun-related criminal prosecutions in the District of Columbia.Thus, gun control had been on the books for over 40 years when the newly elected HomeRule Council adopted the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975. Codified as chapter 25 of Title 7, this act imposes a broad regulatory scheme on the acquisition, possession, and transfer of firearms. The act requires registration of all firearms, restricts who may register a firearm (forinstance, has not been voluntarily or involuntarily committed to any mental hospital or institutionwithin 5 years preceding the registration application), and prohibits certain firearms entirely.Until 2008, the act prohibited all private individuals from registering (i.e., possessing) ahandgun.In 2008, the Supreme Court, in
 District of Columbia v. Heller 
, held that the SecondAmendment of the Constitution guarantees an individual’s right to possess a firearm for the
 
Committee on the Judiciary February 29, 2012Report on Bill 19-614 Page 3 of 27lawful purpose of self-defense within the home. The Court invalidated the District’s total ban onhandguns. It also struck down the District’s safe storage provision – a provision that required allfirearms including rifles and shotguns be kept unloaded and disassembled or bound by a triggerlock, because it lacked an explicit exception for self defense. Since the
 Heller 
decision, therehave been 2,158 firearms registered in the District (713 long guns and 1445 handguns).Following the
 Heller 
case, the Council revised the 1975 Firearms Control RegulationsAct. There have been several challenges to this statute in the courts, but no provision has beenoverturned. Last October the U.S. Circuit Court upheld several provisions of the law, andremanded others to the District Court for further proceedings “because the record is insufficient.”
Context
 The District is not unlike other major U.S. cities in the high incidence of crime and thepercentage of those crimes that are committed by use of firearms. The District’s crime rate forthe various violent crimes exceeds the national average – typical of urban areas. Of these crimes,a significant percentage are committed with firearms:Percentage of DC Index Crimes Involving Guns2008 2009 2010 2011Homicide 75% 76% 75% 71%Robbery 34% 37% 33% 28%ADW 26% 26% 23% 21%Cities across the country are grappling with gun violence. Major cities such as New York and Chicago utilize a variety of gun control regulations. Many cities have also tried uniqueinitiatives, such as the Boston Gun Project’s Operation Ceasefire, Richmond’s Operation Exile,and Philadelphia’s Gun Court. The U.S. Department of Justice has published extensively aboutthe many different strategies cities employ to combat gun violence. It is a substantial problem,both as a matter of public safety and public health.But the District is unlike other cities in that it also hosts the federal government as well asthe international diplomatic corps.Two presidents have been assassinated by handguns in the District of Columbia:Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield. At least three presidents have been shot or shot at withpistols in the District: Andrew Jackson, Harry S. Truman, and Ronald Reagan. A quick check of Wikipedia on-line reveals that in each of the last three Presidential administrations the WhiteHouse has been the target of firearms: Bill Clinton (October 29, 1994), George W. Bush(February 7, 2001), and Barack Obama (November 11, 2011). History has shown time and again

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