It's been almost three years since the United States Supreme Court overturned Washington, D.C.'s ban on handguns, but residents of the District remain unable to register guns in the city. Why? A "temporary, de facto ban" is in now in place after the sole individual who facilitated handgun ownership in the nation's capital stopped accepting registration orders.
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.
Federal law prohibits individuals from buying a handgun outside D.C. and then bringing it into the District. That transfer has to be done by someone with a Federal Firearms License.
Michelle Lane lives on Capitol Hill, and wanted a gun for protection and target practice. She bought two guns in Virginia: a Ruger LCR revolver and a Kahr K9 Elite 9mm. After buying them, she found out she couldn't have them shipped into the city. "It's not fair," she tells WTOP. "I followed the law. Criminals bring guns into the city. It's frustrating."
It could be weeks before Sykes finds a new location for his store and even then, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) requires 30 days advance notice of a move, followed by an additional 60 days to review and approve the location. Until then, D.C. residents are out of luck.
"The city government of Washington, D.C. has a responsibility to make sure that every resident of D.C. can exercise their constitutional rights. And one of those constitutional rights is the individual to have a right to bear arms," Sen. Charles Grassley said Friday. It's "absolutely wrong" that D.C. resident can't currently legally purchase a gun, he added. "Let the city government do the licensing if you don't have a licensed dealer."