Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

September 2, 2009


Christian Davenport Washington Post - It took $833.69, a total of 15 hours 50 minutes, four trips to the Metropolitan Police Department, two background checks, a set of fingerprints, a five-hour class and a 20-question multiple-choice exam.

Oh, and the votes of five Supreme Court justices. They're the ones who really made it possible for me, as a District resident, to own a handgun. . .

Reluctantly, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration set up a process through which about 550 residents -- now including yours truly -- have acquired a handgun. But as my four trips to the police department attest, D.C. officials haven't made it easy.

Which was exactly their intent. The day the Heller decision was announced, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) vowed that the city was still "going to have the strictest handgun laws the Constitution allows." Fenty decried the ruling, saying that "more handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence.". . .

If I lived in Virginia, I'd simply walk into a shop, show my ID, fill out forms and then wait while the store calls for my background check, which can take all of three minutes. If I pass, the gun is mine. Or I could buy a gun from a private citizen and forgo the background check. . .

In Maryland, the process is more involved (though nothing close to what you have to go through in the District): There's an application, a background check, a mandatory 45-minute safety video and then a seven-day waiting period. . .

It may be legal to own a gun in the District, but you still can't buy one within the city limits. At least not in a gun store because there are none. Instead, you must make the purchase in one of the 50 states and have the weapon transferred into the custody of one man: Charles Sykes, who plays an odd role in the transaction.

As a licensed firearms dealer, he could, theoretically, sell guns. But he chooses not to because "I don't want to have to carry an inventory," he says. "Too much liability." Instead, he's the middleman, the only licensed dealer willing to help D.C. residents acquire handguns, a nice little side business for which he charges $125.

Progressive Review - The irony in all this is the DC's strict gun law has been a bust. As John and Maxim Lott pointed out last year:

"The ban went into effect in early 1977, but since it started there is only one year (1985) when D.C.'s murder rate fell below what it was in 1976. But the murder rate also rose dramatically relative to other cities. In the 29 years we have data after the ban, D.C.'s murder rate ranked first or second among the largest 50 cities for 15 years. In another four years, it ranked fourth. For Instance, D.C.'s murder rate fell 3.5 to 3 times more than Maryland and Virginia's during the five years before the handgun ban went into effect in 1977, but rose 3.8 times more in the five years after it."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is anything at all government does that you wouldn't be better off if it didn't.

September 2, 2009 9:48 PM  

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