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District of Columbia's 'Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975' - The Toughest Handgun Control Law in the United States - Or Is It?

NCJ Number
E D Jones
Date Published
29 pages
This paper describes the provisions and legislative history of the 1975 Firearms Control Regulations Act of the District of Columbia and challenges a recent study's conclusions that the law has been effective in reducing violent crime in the District.
The law prohibited the purchase, sale, transfer, and, with one exception, possession of handguns by D.C. residents other than law enforcement officers or members of the military. The exception involved owners who had registered their firearms under the District's registration law. These people were required to reregister their firearms within 60 days after the act's effective date. After that, handguns would not be able to be registered, although newly acquired shotguns and rifles could be registered if acquired from a licensed dealer. The law also required that the police department screen applicants for firearms registrations to eliminate persons with convictions, indictments, or other official processing connected with firearms misuse. The impact of the law was evaluated by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which concluded that the law had been responsible for a significant reduction in both firearm and handgun crime. However, the study's assumptions are unrealistic and its research method contains deficiencies. Thus, the study's conclusion is not sustainable, although the law may have been partially responsible for the reduction in handgun fatalities resulting from argumentative situations. Nevertheless, the increase in the percentage of handgun homicides that are related to felonies shows that the law is not necessarily a cure for crime. The effects of other factors such as narcotics use should be studied, and sources of illegal gun supply to criminal offenders should be controlled. In addition, tough sanctions are needed to deter the criminal misuse of handguns. Tables and footnotes are provided.