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DC police begin renewing registration for 30,000 firearms

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D.C. police have begun the process of renewing the registrations of as many as 30,000 firearms in the city. All of them are owned by as many as 18,000 people.

Until now, city law did not require gun owners to renew their registrations -- a process that will have to be completed every three years.

It will cost you to renew and cost you more if you don't.

D.C. police are hoping to find thousands of people who have registered mostly shotguns and rifles over the last 37 years.

Gun owners who came in once, turned over a passport photo, had their fingerprints taken and were given a registration card.

Now, according to the law, police must collect and store digital photos and fingerprints and hand gun owners the equivalent of a photo ID.

Since 1976, when the District government outlawed handguns, but allowed residents to own rifles and shotguns, police have been registering guns.

In all that time, people may have passed away, moved away or even sold their guns.

It is all the reason why the chairman of the D.C. Council wanted a law that required gun owners to check in with police every three years.

"The registration system is about ensuring people meet qualifications,” said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, “such as they have not been committed to a mental institution, they have not committed a felony, and so forth. And then you want to keep that current, and we want to know, if you no longer live in the District, we want to know that. If you no longer have that firearm, we want to know that.”

Over the next two years, police will mail out notices based on a gun owner’s birthdate. The recipient will then have three months to renew their registration.

Failure to meet that deadline will mean the registration will be revoked.

George Lyon Jr., who was part of the lawsuit that challenged the law against handgun ownership in the District, says the registration renewal is unnecessary.

"I filed a FOIA, a Freedom of Information Act Request, earlier this year, and I asked the question, ‘How many registered firearms have been involved in a shooting since 2009?’ And the answer was zero. So registered firearms are not the problem,” said Lyon in an interview Thursday.

Lyon owns several firearms and knows when he gets his notice, he will have to go down to police headquarters, pay a $48 fee, and have his picture and fingerprints taken again.

"In my view, all they really need to do is have you go online,” said Lyon, “certify that you are not a prohibitive person, list your registered firearms, and if they want to have you pay a fee, it shouldn't be more than $5 since it would all be computer processed anyway.”

But for now, D.C. police need to catch up with the gun owners who have never had to renew their registrations.

In this universe of renewals, police are only looking for gun owners who registered their guns between 1976 and December 31, 2010. Anyone who registered after that will renew on their anniversary date.



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