WASHINGTON – The District of Columbia Council planned to vote Tuesday on emergency legislation to allow handguns, but only if they are used for self-defense in the home and carry fewer than 12 rounds of ammunition.
The legislation announced Monday comes as officials try to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month striking down the city's 32-year-old weapons ban.
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The proposal, which maintains some of the city's strict gun ownership rules and adds more regulations, was immediately criticized by gun rights advocates. They threatened more legal action.
The nation's capital would still require all legal firearms — including handguns, rifles and shotguns — to be kept in the home unloaded and disassembled, or equipped with trigger locks. There would be an exception for guns used against the "reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm."
The proposed legislation also maintains the city's unusual ban of machine guns, defined as weapons that shoot at least 12 rounds without reloading. That applies to most semiautomatic firearms.
"We have crafted what I believe to be a model for the nation in terms of complying with the Supreme Court's Second Amendment decision and at the same time protecting our citizens," interim Attorney General Peter Nickles said.
The National Rifle Association strongly disagreed.
"Clearly, D.C. is doing everything they can to ignore the Supreme Court ruling," said Chris W. Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist. He said the organization would pursue legal or legislative action to thwart the city's efforts.
The legislation also would require a ballistics test to determine if a handgun is stolen or has been used in a crime.
Police Chief Cathy Lanier will limit registration to one handgun per person for the first 90 days to make sure as many people are served as possible. And those who wish to register a handgun must pass written and vision tests.
Residents who already own handguns will be granted six months of amnesty to legally register their weapons, officials said.
The emergency legislation, which has strong support from the council, will remain in effect for 90 days. It adopts many of the regulations proposed earlier this month by D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson.