With few exceptions, it is not yet possible for a Washingtonian to legally obtain a handgun because there are no licensed dealers in the city (although officials expect there will be eventually). Federal law bars a dealer in one state from selling a pistol to a resident of another state unless the gun is shipped to a dealer in the buyer's home jurisdiction, where the purchaser can take delivery.Last night, in anticipation of eventually acquiring a firearm, I ventured with a friend of mine to a gun store in Virginia. The closest one we could find with a good selection was Gilbert Small Arms in Lorton, Virginia. Jack gave an hour of his time to walk us through the mechanics of guns and gun safety.
Constitutionally-speaking, the most troubling portion of the recently-amended D.C. law is the requirement that a resident maintain a gun lock on the gun until the moment that he or she has notice of an "imminent threat." One must hear window glass break or someone coming up the hallway steps before one is permitted to fumble in the dark looking for the gun lock key and bullets to load the gun. Loading bullets in the dark is not easy. The new law does not respect self-defense rights. A recommendation that individuals voluntarily lock their firearms would make more sense.
We discussed with Jack what to do about a household with children in the home. During that discussion, it occurred to me that a revolver (permitted by D.C. Council) does not have a safety latch, one need only load the gun and pull the trigger. Using the semi-automatic (banned by D.C. Council) requires one to pull a "slide" back, not an easy thing for a youngster to do. In addition, semi-automatics have a safety latch.
And... could a gun go off accidentally? Jack explained in great detail why a gun can be thrown across the room, land on the floor, and never go off. It's all about the position of the firing pin.
Can a revolver (permitted by the D.C. Council) shoot bullets just as fast as a semi-automatic pistol (banned by the D.C. Council)? Answer: yes. The only difference is that a semi-automatic operates on a magazine and holds more bullets.
Personally, I prefer a revolver, at least at the outset, because it is easier to operate and requires less maintenance. But, at Gilbert at least, sales of semi-automatics outnumber sales of revolvers at least three-to-one. Clearly many people are comfortable with semi-automatics and prefer to use them.
Finally, there are some federal regulations with which to contend. Buying a firearm out of state requires the out-of-state seller to ship the gun to an in-state dealer overnight, at a cost of $45. Call it a tax or whatever, it certainly raises the price of a gun. While that may be fine with the City Council, are not the poor entitled to exercise their constitutional rights as well?
Attempting to retain as much as the old law as possible is a waste of public money when done in a half-hazard unconstitutional manner that will attract litigation. The Council should carefully consider what laws and regulations will truly respect the citizens and their rights to self defense, while at the same time keeping guns out of the hands of people who should never possess them.