How To Buy a Handgun in DC

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The Washington Post has a fairly detailed article on what a journalist had to go through to get a gun in The District:

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.

The story is about the post-Heller decision, where now, with heavy licensing requirements, it’s possible for the benevolent DC government to allow you to keep a gun in your home. One thing that I did not know is that, because there are no (legal) gun dealers in DC, one must buy the gun in another state and have it transferred to a local Federal Firearms Licensee. Turns out, according to this story, that there is only one person in DC licensed to do that!

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.

So I head out of the city to Maryland Small Arms in Upper Marlboro. After shopping around a bit, I settle on a used Taurus Model 85 .38-caliber revolver. I like it because it’s just like the one I used during my instruction, though smaller. And at $275, it was a relatively cheap beginner’s gun, even though the dealer tacks on a $35 fee for transferring it to Sykes.

But the only thing I can bring home is the receipt. Only Sykes can bring the gun into the District, which he does two days later. The following week, I meet him at his office in Anacostia, and we fill out the registration form. Then he hands me paperwork from the federal Department of Justice that asks, among other things, if I am a “fugitive from justice” or if I have ever “renounced” my U.S. citizenship.

Next, I have to go to the police station — my second visit — to get fingerprinted and pass a 20-question exam that covers D.C. gun laws, a hurdle neither Maryland nor Virginia requires. Then I have to wait 10 days — considerably longer than in Virginia or Maryland — while police run a criminal background check.

Only then will the gun be mine.

Go, Heller, Go…or maybe not?

10:14 am on January 9, 2010
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