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Published: Friday, 7/18/2008

D.C. plaintiff in high-court gun case turned away from registering weapon

Heller Heller

WASHINGTON - The plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that overturned Washington's 32-year handgun ban was the first to arrive yesterday as the city began registering firearms.

But security guard Dick Heller was turned away from police headquarters because he didn't bring his weapon as required.

Yesterday was the first day that District of Columbia residents could begin registering or applying for handguns since the Supreme Court struck down one of the nation's strictest gun laws.

Mr. Heller complained, however, that city officials were still making it difficult to register his firearm and exercise his constitutional right to bear arms.

"I've been rejected again," said Mr. Heller, who sued the city after his application for a handgun license was rejected in 2003.

The Supreme Court ruled June 26 that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to have guns for self-defense.

Since then, city officials have moved quickly. Under emergency legislation passed this week by the D.C. Council, residents may keep handguns only for self-defense - at home unloaded and disassembled, or equipped with trigger locks.

A weapon can be readied for use only if there's the "reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm."

The law also bans weapons broadly defined as machine guns that can fire 12 rounds or more, which rules out most semiautomatic handguns.

Dane von Breichenruchardt, a gun advocate and adviser to Mr. Heller, said further legal challenges are likely because city officials continue to insist on such stringent regulations.

"They think they're above the Supreme Court," he said, echoing other gun-rights advocates.

Mr. Von Breichenruchardt, the president of the Bill of Rights Foundation, said that as long as the city continues to outlaw most semiautomatic firearms, Mr. Heller likely will be barred from registering his weapon - a 45-caliber Colt pistol. He said he'd return today to register a different weapon.

Residents who kept handguns at home illegally under the ban are receiving six months of amnesty to register their weapons.

Besides Mr. Heller, about 60 showed up at police headquarters yesterday, mostly to pick up applications for firearms.

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