Legislation proposed by Council Member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) would allow D.C. to become a federal firearms license which would allow it to deal handguns- able to sell and transfer guns to the Districts citizens. Fellow council members including Mayor Gray have said they plan to oppose the legislation.
The city’s lone licensee, Charles Sykes, Jr. lost the lease on his southeast building in April, which has left D.C. residents unable to acquire a handgun. The Mayor has said that the city is trying to help Sykes find a new location, however his business encounters a zoning roadblock. New legislation passed after the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision require such businesses to be in commercial districts and at least 300 feet away from schools, libraries or other landmarks.
Mendelson’s legislation doesn’t have the nine votes it needs in order to be passed and he has withdrawn the legislation, but plans to reintroduce it after the Council’s summer recess resumes in September, hoping other councilmember’s co-sponsor the bill. Mendelson proposed this emergency legislation in a move that would counter feared federal legislation by Congress to rewrite gun laws in the District, if Sykes doesn’t find a new shop to reopen his business soon.
In 2008 a U.S. Supreme Court decision ended D.C.’s handgun ban allowing city residents to purchase and own handguns as long as they are registered and kept in their homes. However some council members have expressed concern that Mendelson’s legislation would make the District liable for gun deaths if passed.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics DC ranks among the highest jurisdictions in the nations with gun crimes. In 1976, Washington, D.C., instituted one of the strictest gun-control laws in the country. However, the murder rate since that time has risen 134 percent (77.8 per 100,000 population) while the overall rate for the country has declined 2 percent. Washington, D.C., politicians find it easy to blame Virginia’s less-stringent gun laws for the D.C. murder rate. Federal law prohibits residents from bringing in out-of-state guns unless it is transferred to the federal firearms licensee in D.C., and due to Sykes business closing, D.C. now has none.