Playing Hard to GetOctober 2, 2008 - 4:43am

The Smith & Wesson .38 Mark Segraves purchased legally as D.C. lifted its handgun ban. (WTOP Photo/Mark Segraves)
They may be legal, but they sure aren't easy to get. Registering a handgun in the District takes time, money and a lot of leg work.
It takes four trips to police headquarters, one trip to an out-of-state gun store, two trips to a gun dealer. You must be fingerprinted. The gun must go through a ballistics test. You have to have one form notarized. You must provide two passport sized photographs. You have to take a written test. And, you have to pay nearly $200 in various fees.
In Maryland, there is an eight- to 10-day waiting period, and in Virginia, there is no waiting because the background check is instant. But neither state requires multiple trips to various locations, multiple fees, a notary or any testing.

Mike Stollenwerk, a gun rights advocate with, calls the process in D.C. "onerous."
"Any consitutional right that takes this must time effort and money to enjoy is still a privilege and needs to be fixed," Stollenwerk tells WTOP.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D At-Large) who chairs the committee which oversees the police department says the District gun regulations are still a work in process.
"I would like the process streamlined," Mendelson says, "I was assured multiple trips to police headquarters were not necessary. The process should not be onerous and unnecessarily burdensome for people who qualify."
At a hearing on the District's gun laws on Wednesday, police officials told Mendelson that applicants could do some of the process by mail. That option was never presented to me. One trip to police headquarters can be avoided if the gun dealer has blank copies of the application, but that isn't always the case.
I began the process back on July 17, the first day the District began accepting applications for handgun permits. Seventy six days later, I have my gun. But the gun won't stay with me. WTOP will donate it to the National Firearms Museum in Virginia.
To be fair, the process won't take anyone that long now. For the first two months there was no licensed firearms dealer in the District, which meant almost no D.C. Resident could buy a gun. That's no longer an issue. But it will still take several days and a lot of patience.
First, you have to go out of the city to buy the handgun. Gun stores are still illegal in the District. Although at Mendelson's hearing, Lt. Jon Shelton testified that gun stores are legal, they just can't display guns in a store front window. Nevertheless, there are no gun stores in D.C.
The gun must then be transferred from the store to the only federally licensed firearms dealer in the District who is willing to transfer individual handguns. Federal law prohibits most people from transferring an unregistered gun across state lines. While the D.C. dealer doesn't sell guns, he can facilitate the transfer.
Once the gun is in the possession of the D.C. dealer, you must have the dealer fill out the application, which you have to pick up at police headquarters, and you then have to take it back to police headquarters. Have I mentioned it's nearly impossible to find parking near police headquarters?
The police will fingerprint you, and give you a written test. Then you have to wait three to five days for your background check to be completed, and then it's back to police headquarters to pick up your approved application. Take that back to the dealer and pick up your gun, than take the gun to police headquarters for ballistics testing.
That's it. Along the way you also have to find a notary, get two passport photos and stand in line at the D.C. Treasurer's window to pay the fees for fingerprinting, ballistics testing and the registration. So, if you're a District resident interested in registering a handgun, you better not be in a hurry.
(Copyright 2008 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)