If you weren’t already aware, even after Heller struck down the handgun ban and onerous firearm ownership restrictions in the District of Columbia, DC residents have still had an unconstitutionally difficult time obtaining firearms. There are no gun stores in DC. Not a single one. In addition, federal law prohibits the direct sale of firearms to people who are not residents of the state in which the sale takes place. Instead, the sale must be handled through an FFL in the buyer’s state of residence – this requires an additional fee to an FFL willing to conduct the transfer. Until recently, there has been only one FFL in DC willing to do so.
Since the lifting of the handgun ban in June 2008, Charles Sykes has processed more than 1,000 handguns for District residents. Sykes tells WTOP he’s stopped taking orders for now.”I’ve lost my lease,” Sykes said in a phone interview. “I’ll take care of the customers who already placed orders, but I don’t want to take any more until I know where I will reopen.”
Sykes is the sole proprietor of C S Exchange, the only licensed firearm dealer in the city that will transfer guns for individuals. Sykes doesn’t sell the guns — there are no gun stores in D.C. His company facilitates the transfer of guns from out of state stores into the District for a fee of $125 per gun.
DC’s zoning regulations, and specifically the restrictions on where a business dealing in firearms can be located (the linked story has a map), are making it extraordinarily difficult for him to find a new location.
Zoning regulations require gun dealers to locate in either a commercial zone or industrial zone. Most of the District is either zoned for residential use or is federal land. There is also the added restriction of dealers not being able to open a shop within 300 feet of any home, church, school, library or playground.
And once he finds an available lease, he still has to have the location approved by three separate government agencies: the ATF, the the Metropolitan Police Department, and the District’s Office of Zoning. There’s no guarantee that any new location will be approved by all three.
In fact, there is another FFL in DC who is willing to do transfers – but he’s been trying without success since 2008 to find a location.
Kevin Shepard owns Second Amendment Safety and Security, and has had a Federal Firearms License since 2008, but has not been able to find a location to open his business. He says the zoning requirements are too restrictive.
With the closing of C S Exchange, this now amounts to a de facto ban on firearms purchases by DC residents. So the SAF has stepped in.
The Second Amendment Foundation today filed suit in U.S. District Court in Virginia challenging the constitutionality of federal and Virginia provisions barring handgun sales to non-residents.SAF is joined in the lawsuit by Michelle Lane, a District of Columbia resident who cannot legally purchase handguns because there are no retail firearms dealers inside the District.
“This is an important issue in the era of the national instant background check,” said SAF Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “The NICS check should allow law-abiding citizens like Miss Lane to exercise their Second Amendment rights regardless their place of residence.”
“Americans don’t check their constitutional rights at the state line,” said Gura. “And since Michelle Lane is legally entitled to possess firearms, forcing her to seek a non-existing D.C. dealer to buy a handgun is pointless when perfectly legitimate options exist minutes across the Potomac River.”
“The Supreme Court has ruled that District residents have an individual right, protected by the Constitution, to have a handgun in their home,” Gottlieb noted. “The high court has also ruled that the Second Amendment applies to the states. Existing state and federal statutes violate both the spirit and letter of recent court rulings and the Constitution, and our lawsuit seeks to remedy that situation.”
This is an important point: The NICS is a national background check, the availability and results of which do not rely on one’s state of residence. Why should people be forced to have it done by an FFL in their home state, when the results would be exactly the same if it was done by any FFL in any other state?
But more important is the fact that this restriction means that DC residents who do not already own a firearm are banned from exercising a Constitutional Right based simply on the uncontrollable occurrence of one business losing it’s lease – something the city cannot guarantee will not happen again even if he finds a new, approved location tomorrow.
Alan Gura should be awarded the both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal for his actions in restoring the true meaning and supremacy of the Second Amendment (not that it will happen with the current administration). But even with everything he’s done, there’s still a long way to go. Support the SAF.
END OF LINE