WASHINGTON — The doors opened Thursday to post-handgun ban era here, with gun rights advocates vowing another legal challenge to the city's newly approved gun control law.
Less than a month after the Supreme Court overturned the city's 32-year-old handgun ban — the most restrictive in the nation — the same litigant in the landmark case appeared at police headquarters and said he likely would wage a new fight.D.C. GUN BAN: Read the court's decision
Dick Heller, whose legal challenge prompted the Supreme Court ruling, said he would challenge new city regulations that continue to ban District residents from owning semi-automatic weapons.
"The city still does not yet understand the decision of the Supreme Court," Heller said from the steps of police headquarters. "We have been denied again."
The court struck down the handgun ban June 26, and established for the first time in U.S. history that the Constitution's Second Amendment gives individuals the right to keep guns at home for self-defense. But the court also indicated that a person's right to gun ownership is not unlimited.
Dane von Breichenruchardt, president of the Bill of Rights Foundation, said the city was attempting to make gun ownership as "difficult and restrictive as possible."
"We're going to be back in court. There is no doubt about that," he said.
Under terms of the emergency law, passed earlier this week by the D.C. Council, residents must obtain a city-issued handgun permit and may keep handguns only in their homes for self-defense purposes.
The permits require every gun owner to pass a written test and vision exam, submit the weapons for ballistic testing and offer proof of residency.
The provisions still rank as some of the toughest in the nation. But perhaps the most controversial aspect of the law, gun rights advocates say, mandates that gun owners keep their weapons unloaded, disassembled or secured with trigger locks, unless they face a "threat of immediate harm."
The National Rifle Association has signaled it also will challenge the new D.C. regulation, describing the law as extreme and in "complete defiance of the Supreme Court's decision."
"The current D.C. proposal requires the complete cooperation of the criminal," NRA spokesman Andrew Akulanandum. "It would require the criminal to call and tell you when they plan to come and attack you."
D.C. Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham said the regulations can be "interpreted" in various ways. "But this isn't a 'gotcha' program. We're trying to accommodate people," he said.
When the doors opened to prospective gun owners at 7 a.m. Thursday, only one other applicant was waiting. Ron Jones, 33, said he had not yet purchased a handgun, but planned to get a start on the registration process.
"I'm interested in self-defense. It's our constitutional right. I'm here to exercise that right. The way things are now, with the kids and the mischief they are making, what are we supposed to do? They have the guns already," he said.