Mark Snyder, an amateur biathlete, wanted to buy a .22-caliber bolt-action rifle for target shooting and figured the process would take about a week. After nearly six weeks, six visits to police departments and $300 in fees, he secured his rifle.
"I was not expecting a free ride," said Mr. Snyder, 45, "but this is an obstacle course they put in place."
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the District of Columbia's 32-year ban on handguns in 2008, a victory for the gun-rights lobby that seemed to promise a more permissive era in America's long tussle over gun ownership. Since then, the city has crafted rules that are proving a new, powerful deterrent to residents who want to buy firearms.
I wondered if the folks in power in the District, the ones who make these rules are being sore losers and saying in effect, "oh, yeah, you think you won, well we'll show you."
On the other hand, many of the restrictions make good sense.
On second thought, they don't make all that much sense. What possible good is a 20-question test? And what kind of skills do you think people get from one hour at the range and four in the classroom? No, those are pretty much worthless.
After the Heller decision, the District's city council passed the Firearms Registration Amendment Act of 2008.
Under the law, would-be gun owners must go through a process requiring fingerprints, photographs and the detailing of some job history.
Applicants have to take a 20-question test on the District's gun laws and regulations. There is a five-hour class, including at least one hour at a gun range, although the city doesn't have a public one. Buyers are required to find trainers from a list approved by police. There is a vision exam, and once the process is complete, the gun must be taken back to the police to be fired for a ballistic identification.
The registration expires after three years and must be renewed. If it lapses, the police can seize the gun, and for a first offense, the owner could be jailed for up to one year and fined $1,000.
The law designates certain guns as assault weapons that can't be bought in the city. It limits the size of the ammunition-feeding devices to no more than 10 bullets. Many common semi-automatic pistols can hold more than that.
In 2011, the city will require semi-automatic pistols owned in the city to be produced with devices that imprint shell casings with a code or serial number as part of the firing process. That would make it easier to link shell casings to guns. The technology, known as micro-stamping or micro-engraving, is in its infancy, and most manufacturers haven't yet adopted it.
I'd say the written examination should be more like testing for the bar, something which requires serious study and preparation. And for the training aspect, something along the lines of Parris Island Marine training would work. All right, I admit I'm exaggerating, but you get my point, right?
Another thing is I find it hard to believe a biathlete like the one mentioned in the story would be treated the same as someone applying for a handgun license. If that is the case, it's wrong. The right way for me would be to expedite certain applications, athletes, collectors and the like. The rest should have to jump through all the hoops.
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.