November 23, 2021
On November 16, 2021, the D.C. Council voted to amend its recently enacted law banning “ghost guns” on an emergency basis in response to a lawsuit filed by Dick Heller. Renzulli Law Firm, LLP previously reported on the lawsuit filed against the District of Columbia in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the constitutionality of the new D.C. law banning the possession or manufacture of “ghost guns” as overly broad and unconstitutionally vague, and noting that the “District has apparently unwittingly made…existing polymer frame handguns illegal.” This is because the District’s law defined as a prohibited “ghost gun,” the frame or receiver of a firearm, including an unfinished frame or receiver, that is not as detectable by a walk through metal detector as the security exemplar, which is a 3.7 ounce handgun shaped piece of stainless steel.
The proposed amendment to the law would clarify the definition of a “ghost gun” to make it clear that existing commercially manufactured firearms with polymer frames/receivers are not prohibited simply because their frames/receivers are not as detectable as the security exemplar. By doing so, it makes DC law comport with federal law that a firearm need only be as detectable as the security exemplar when its grips, stocks and magazine is removed, but not when it is stripped down to a bare frame/receiver.
The proposed amendments also set forth procedures for legally registering home-made firearms, including requirements for serial numbers. By doing so, it reverses the District’s 1976 ban on manufacturing firearms, which was also challenged in the lawsuit. The proposed amendments were approved by a vote of 12-1 and are currently waiting for Mayor Bowser to sign or veto them. The proposed amendments, however, would only be temporary because they were enacted on an emergency basis. Unless permanently enacted into law, they would not moot the request for an injunction in the lawsuit.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor the status of the DC “ghost gun” law and firearm related news and events around the country. If you have any questions concerning firearms related legislation, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.