Remember my analysis and prediction, yesterday? Which made me feel kinda dumb, since I said I figured we’d see some licensing movement in two months, but then Fenty made statements about 21 days. I wasn’t quite as wrong as I thought – the 21 days aren’t necessarily when they’ll start, but is when the police will release the requirements and processes. When they’ll then start accepting applications is not so concrete.
My disappointment, though, is that I was so silly as to think that the D.C. government, faced with the obvious and inevitable, would decide to just do what they have to do. No, instead Mayor Fenty et all have decided they haven’t pissed away enough of the city’s money on this battle, and rather than focus on writing gun licensing regulations that might make all of us safer and survive the inevitable legal challenges, they’re going to attempt to enforce other gun laws on the books that obviously are out of line with yesterday’s decision.
[interim D.C. Attorney General Peter] Nickles said the District will continue to enforce a separate decades-old D.C. ban on the possession of most clip-loaded semiautomatic handguns, which are popular with gun enthusiasts.
That regulation, which outlaws machine guns and was not part of the Supreme Court case, defines a machine gun in broad terms, encompassing semiautomatic weapons that can shoot, or be converted to shoot, more than 12 rounds without reloading, officials said. Nickles said that law remains on the books and will be enforced.
I can only hope that (a) the Washington Post will prod article writers Paul Duggan and David Nakamurato be a little more precise with their language in the future, since a ban on “semiautomatic weapons that can shoot, or be converted to shoot, more than 12 rounds without reloading” isn’t a limit on machine guns, it’s a limit on almost any self-loading type of pistol and (b) Nickles will read the opinion issued by the court and notice how often Scalia talks about “common” weapons. Self-loading handguns outsell revolvers 3 to 1, which pretty well fits into the definition of common.
So like it or not, enforcing this other law is just an expensive guaranteed return trip to the court in order to lose. It’s unlikely it will get far; this is so obvious on its face that the lower courts are going to rule against the city and appeals likely won’t get far. However that doesn’t mean it’s not a waste of resources we can’t afford. Let’s accept reality and work within it, and be ready for the inevitable other lawsuits that are going to come up over license restrictions. The universe – and the NRA – give away trouble for free. There’s no need to go looking for it.
UPDATE: Just noticed that Ben Winograd over on SCOTUSBlog addresses this idiocy, provides a salient example, and suggests that DC should fix this statute before the courts or the congress fixes it for them. Starts on paragraph 6.
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs