D.C. Residents Unable to Purchase Handguns After Sole Dealer Seeks New Office
It's been three years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the nation's toughest gun control law, the one in Washington, D.C. But a de facto ban has taken effect ever since the city's only firearms dealer stopped registering guns.
Because there are no gun shops in Washington, city residents who wish to legally possess a handgun must purchase them elsewhere and register them with Charles Syke, who charges $125 fee.
But Sykes won't register any more guns until he finds another office space for his business. In an interview with FoxNews.com, Sykes wouldn't say why he's moving or how long it will take him.
"I'm sure the residents will know when I'm accepting new firearms again," he said.
But at least one U.S. senator has taken notice and he's not happy about what he sees as a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
"Unfortunately, despite the Supreme Court ruling, the D.C. council has done everything in its power to restrict lawful gun owners from exercising their Second Amendment rights," Sen. Chuck Grassley said in an email to FoxNews.com. "How they go about doing that is up to them, but it's wrong that the residents of the district can't legally buy a gun and then bring it home."
Grassley suggested that the city government register the guns or that owners of guns purchased legally elsewhere in the U.S. be allowed to possess them in D.C.
Councilman-at-large Phil Mendelson, who developed gun-control restrictions after the Supreme Court ruling, said he's willing to consider allowing the city to register the guns but added that "it's easier said than done."
The city would have to get licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the federal agency that oversees gun sales and registrations, and would need to meet all the agency's requirements, Mendelson said.
"I'm not opposed to it. It's not just a matter of we'll do this," he said.
Washington's gun ban first took effect in 1976 and essentially outlawed private ownership of handguns in a city struggling with violence. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the ban.
Mendelson noted that only 1,138 guns have been registered since then.
"That's a very small market," he said, adding that he would like to see more federal firearms license dealers.
"I was told last week that someone else was interested and began the process of opening a shop," he said. "And I think that's unfortunate. But I don't know how we can increase the business."
Sykes said he is not aware of anyone else planning to open shop but he's not opposed.
"Whoever wants to get in this business is fine with me," he said. "Once they do it, they'll see the other side. Then they might be able to find out why no one else has done it before."
Sykes, who has another job, said selling guns in Washington is not like selling iPods.
"If you think you can survive off of selling bare minimum of guns, your eyes are going to be open pretty soon," he said. "There's not much business."
Mendelson said he would not consider Grassley's proposal to allow guns legally purchased elsewhere into the city.
"Nowhere in the nation are residents allowed to do that," he said.
Mendelson sought to keep the issue in perspective, saying he's only heard complaints from the news media and indirectly from the National Rifle Association. But he said he was concerned.
"I take it very seriously the fact that at the moment a lawful purchaser is unable to acquire a handgun," he said. He added, "It's temporary. We're talking weeks."
But Sykes said he can't put a timeframe on when he's reopening for business, though he added that it won't take 32 years. Sykes compared himself to a doctor who has gone on vacation for a month.
"In this situation, there is no other doctor you can go to," he said. "You wait for that doctor to come back and everything will be fine."