Believe it or not but this is NOT a story about Operation Fast and Furious, Operation Castaway, or any of the other Project Gunwalker variants.
It is, however, about a proposal before the District of Columbia City Council that would make the D.C. government a Federal Firearms Licensee. Currently there are no operating FFLs in the District of Columbia since Charles Sykes lost his lease. As the Washington Post reports:
While Sykes’s business in on hiatus, D.C. residents have been prevented de facto from buying guns, which has opened the city to lawsuits. In late May, Virginia lawyer Alan Gura sued the city in Alexandria’s federal court on behalf of three District residents who have purchased guns legally but are unable to transfer them into the city.
The lawsuit in question is Lane et al v. Holder et al and is being tried in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Alan Gura. The suit goes to the heart of the Gun Control Act of 1968 which forbade interstate transfers of handguns except for FFL to FFL transfers. More on that suit can be found here.
Council Member At-Large Phil Mendelson (D) has proposed three emergency bills that would make the District a FFL. From his notice for the July 12th Council meeting that was sent to all members of the City Council:
- Firearms Amendment Emergency Declaration Resolution Act of 2011
- Firearms Amendment Emergency Amendment Act of 2011
- Firearms Amendment Temporary Amendment Act of 2011
The above measures would permit the District to operate as a Federal Firearms licensee (FFL) for the purpose of individuals’ interstate purchase and transfer of handguns when there is no active FFL operating in the District. The sole FFL that had been operating in the District is not currently operating, meaning that a District resident who wishes to purchase a handgun cannot bring it into the District since an FFL is required to physically receive the firearm and then provide it to the licensed owner. This emergency act will permit the District to operate as the FFL in the limited circumstance where there is not otherwise an FFL in operation in the District, thereby allowing District residents who wish to purchase firearms to do so legally.
Mr. Mendelson has said that gun control opponents are “waiting to pounce” on the District over the lack of a FFL. Actually, as I noted above, they have already pounced and have a very solid case. As to Mr. Sykes and his efforts to find a new location, he has said he has proposed a number of locations to the District but they have all been rejected.
This might be the time for a pro-gun Congressman to introduce a bill forbidding the District from becoming a FFL. I would hate to imagine the fees they would charge for a transfer plus the hoops they would make you jump just to pick up your paid-for firearm.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and council members expressed a variety of concerns about Mendelson’s proposal.
In a letter delivered to council members Tuesday morning, Gray said the proposal would impose an “unnecessary burden on the government, would potentially subject the District government to liability and also undermines the District’s strong public stance in support of gun control.”
D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) and Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said they worried the District would be liable for gun deaths if the legislation was approved.
The proponent of this bill, Councilman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), seems to be the only one who realizes what a tight spot the District of Columbia finds itself with no operating gun shop to act as a transfer agent. You have attorney Alan Gura and his suit, Lane v. Holder, on one side and a pro-gun Congress on the other. Frankly, I’m glad they punted on this proposal as it makes it more likely that Lane v. Holder will succeed in its thrust at the heart of the Gun Control Act of 1968.