The D.C. Council voted unanimously yesterday to give preliminary approval to legislation that would require gun owners to renew their registrations every three years and to notify police annually whether they still own guns.
The Fire Arms Registration Amendment, which would also ban assault weapons, was described as building on legislation passed by the council in September to adhere to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the city's 32-year handgun ban.
Yesterday's gun legislation is the next step in the District's gun control efforts. Its earlier attempts before the September legislation prompted a gun-rights activist to sue and the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation that would have all but stripped the city of its regulating authority. The lawsuit is pending; the congressional measure died in the Senate.
Since September, D.C. residents have been allowed to register magazine-loaded semiautomatic handguns as well as revolvers. The legislation banned magazines that are capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Yesterday's legislation would also require firearms owners to take a safety course and undergo a background check every six years.
After the vote, council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) said in a statement, "Today's vote puts the District at the forefront of using regulation to reduce gun violence, rather than the simpler, prior approach of hoping that an outright ban will be effective."
Mendelson is chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary.
Alan Gura, however, said requiring repeated registration will bring the city more legal problems. "None of this is going to reduce crime, but it is going to increase litigation," said Gura, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case. "While I have not studied the bill, requiring people to register and re-register every year is harassment."
Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said he had not seen the legislation. Still, he said, "if the mayor and the city counsel continue to defy the United States Supreme Court, the National Rifle Association will seek a remedy either by legal or legislative means."
"What they are trying to do is to make it difficult as possible for law-abiding people to own a firearm."