The council just voted to require gun owners to undergo safety training before they can register weapons in the District.
At the last council meeting, Councilmember Mary M. Cheh had proposed the measure as an amendment to the bill governing the regulation of handguns. Since then, the mayor’s office raised concerns about the possibility that such a requirement, shared with very few other jurisdictions, would attract new litigation from the gun-rights crowd. Phil Mendelson, the at-large councilmember who chairs the judiciary and public safety committee and has taken the lead on writing the city’s new gun laws, agreed with that assessment and opposed Cheh’s amendment.
Today, Cheh again introduced her amendment, and a short debate ensued, the highlight of which was Chairman Vincent C. Gray sharing a story from his youth to explain his support for training. As a child, he explained, his father had kept a gun in the house, and one time “my parents went out, and my brother decided he was going to quote-unquote ‘clean his gun’….I had to go to the bathroom, and while i was in the bathroom, this loud noise went off. My brother did not realize that there was a bullet in the chamber. It went right through the furniture and right through where I was standing.”
Said Gray, “God must have decided it wasn’t my day to go….I remember it as vividly today as when it just occurred.”
Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., who co-introduced the training amendment with Cheh, also shared an anecdote about the accidental firing of a firearm around the home. The stories seem to have made an impression: The amendment passed 10-3, with Mendelson, Jack Evans, and Carol Schwartz voting against. The amended bill then passed by acclamation.