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5. Require stricter licensing of manufacturers and dealers in weapons in the District, including those selling weapons at retail and wholesale and those in the business of repairing firearms, and require records to be kept and reports to be made to the Chief of Police concerning weapons sold and repaired and to whom sold and delivered.
6. Tighten existing provisions prohibiting the possession of a dangerous weapon with intent to use it unlawfully, including establishment of a presumption that the possession of certain weapons, including possession of a pistol without a license, constitutes possession of such weapon with intent to use it unlawfully.
7. Require any person desiring to purchase a pistol, machinegun, sawed-off shotgun, or blackjack within the District to first obtain a permit to purchase any such weapon.
This latter provision contained in section 2 of the bill and amending section 8 of the act (sec. 22–3208, District of Columbia Code, 1961 edition), has a farreaching effect in strengthening existing law and is one of the most important features of the bill. The requirement that any purchase of a pistol, or any other prohibited weapon listed, must be preceded by the granting of a permit to purchase such weapon brings the District within the provisions of the Federal Firearms Act (U.S.C., title 15, ch. 18) governing interstate traffic of firearms. Section 902(c) of such act provides that:
"It shall be unlawful for any licensed manufacturer or dealer to transport or ship any firearm in interstate or foreign commerce to any person other than a licensed manufacturer or dealer in any State the laws of which require that a license be obtained for the purchase of such firearm, unless such license is eshibited to such manufacturer or dealer by the prospective purchaser.” [Emphasis supplied.]
The Commissioners believe that the permit to purchase provision, in light of the above-quoted provision of the Federal Firearms Act, would eliminate in great part the serious problem of mail-order shipment of handguns to persons in the District. For example, any licensed dealer outside the District (or, in fact, within the District as well since the Federal Firearms Act detines interstate commerce to include commerce within the District) would be required to see evidence of a permit to purchase issued by the Commissioners or their designated agent before shipping or transporting the weapon in question. Should a dealer fail to comply with this requirement, he would face prosecution under the Federal statute; in addition, under the language of the proposed bill, he would also face prosecution under the strengthened District dangerous-weapons statute. The Commissioners have been informed that several States now require a permit (or some equivalent procedure) to purchase firearms bringing them within the Federal Firearms Act, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina.
In developing the draft bill, the Commissioners' legal staff has had the close cooperation and assistance of various Federal officials, including the Internal Revenue Service which administers the Federal Firearms Act and the National Firearms Act. In addition, Mr. David C. Acheson, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, has aided in the drafting of the amendments. Mr. Robert V. Murray, Chief of Police for the District of Columbia, has also given personal attention to this matter and has been in communication with high ranking officials of the New York Police Department concerning the effectiveness of such provisions as are now being proposed.
In summary, the Commissioners believe that a need exists at this time for strengthening the District's dangerous-weapons statute. The bill would, on one hand, continue to allow the possession of firearms by those law-abiding citizens desiring protection of their property and persons, under proper regulation, so that no qualified citizen desiring possession of such weapon need go unarmed. But, on the other hand, the bill provides for close control over the importation and possession of weapons and thus enables the authorities to take necessary steps to prevent these weapons from falling into the hands of criminal elements or persons not qualified to possess them. Accordingly, the Commissioners most strongly urge the enactment of the proposed bill.
The Commissioners have been advised by the Bureau of the Budget that, from the standpoint of the administration's program, there is no objection to the submission of this legislation to the Congress. Very sincerely yours,
WALTER N. TOBRINER, President, Board of Commissioners, District of Columbia.
GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
Washington, D.C., April 24, 1963.
MY DEAR MR. MCMILLAN : The Commissioners of the District of Columbia have been asked to report on H.R. 678, 88th Congress, a bill to amend the act of July 8, 1932 (relating to dangerous weapons in the District of Columbia), to create a presumption in connection with the possession of certain dangerous weapons.
The purpose of the bill is to establish a presumption that the possession of any weapon referred to in subsection (b) of section '14 of the act approved July 8, 1932 (47 Stat. 654), as amended (sec. 22–3214(b), District of Columbia Code, 1961 edition), is possession with intent to use such weapon unlawfully against another. The weapons mentioned in the subsection are "an imitation pistol, or a dagger, dirk, razor, stiletto, or knife with a blade longer than 3 inches, or other dangerous weapon."
This same section of the act is the subject of an amendment proposed (as part of a substantial revision of the existing dangerous weapons law for the District) in H.R. 5608, 88th Congress, a bill to amend the act of July 8, 1932, relating to the control or possession in the District of Columbia of dangerous weapons, and for other purposes, introduced at the request of the Commissioners.
Under H.R. 5608, possession of any dangerous weapon with intent to use it unlawfully is prohibited and, in addition, the possession of certain weapons establishes a presumption that such possession is with intent to use the weapon unlawfully. The presumption is established with regard to the possession without a written permit of any pistol (as provided by other provisions of the bill), the possession of any machinegun, sawed-off shotgun, or any weapon or instrument of the kind commonly known as a blackjack, slung shot, slingshot, sandbag, switch-blade knife, gravity knife, or metal knuckles.
It is the view of the Commissioners that amendment of section 14 of the act in accordance with H.R. 5608 is preferred. They, therefore, strongly urge that H.R. 5608 be enacted in lieu of H.R. 678.
The Commissioners have been advised by the Bureau of the Budget that, from the standpoint of the administration's program, there is no objection to the sub mission of this report to the Congress. Yours very sincerely,
WALTER N. TOBRINER, President, Board of Commissioners, District of Columbia. Mr. TOBRINER. Mr. Gilbert Gimbel, who is the Assistant Corporation Counsel who drafted this bill and is intimately familiar with the details, will testify on it, with the committee's permission.
Mr. WHITENER. Would you like him to sit with you now?
Mr. TOBRINER. I would indeed, sir, to give you the details of the provisions of the bill.
Mr. WHITENER. Would you prefer that Mr. Gimbel proceed?
Mr. TOBRINER. I would, sir, because he is very familiar with each item of the proposed legislation.
Mr. WHITENER. I take it that you feel that we should not be concerned too much with H.R. 678 since H.R. 5608 embraces its terms!
Mr. TOBRINER. That is correct; introduced by the same gentleman.
Mr. GIMBEL. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, briefly, the committee may recall that Commissioner Tobriner suggested tightening the District's dangerous weapons law during the joint hearings that were conducted by the committees; and, following that, the bill
was drafted and introduced. The purposeMr. WHITENER. May I ask you, at the outset, do you have any statute of any State or jurisdiction that you used as a guide in the preparation of this?
Mr. GIMBEL. We, of course, followed the framework of our own dangerous weapons statute, which is contained in title XXII, chapter 32 of the District of Columbia Code. And what this bill amounts to is a substantial revision within the framework of that act.
We looked to the New York law in this regard. As you may recall, there was reference to the so-called Sullivan law of New York, and we adopted the principal element of the Sullivan law, although this is not the Sullivan law; the principal element being that the Sullivan law requires a license to possess a handgun. And we have adopted that provision but with a tighter control over the discretionary powers, or over the powers of the Commissioners to issue such a license.
We have changed, we have gone beyond the Sullivan law in what feel is a more equitable and more worthwhile law.
I might pinpoint some of the highlights of this bill for the committee's information.
Basically, the bill provides, with regard to permits, a permit to purchase a pistol. Under the act, a pistol means any handgun with a barrel under 12 inches.
The permit to purchase a pistol is an extremely important feature of the bill, in that it would bring the District within the Federal Firearms Act. The Federal Firearms Act, which is administered by the Internal Revenue Service, is an act controlling the interstate traffic of firearms. And by requiring a permit to purchase, the District would come within that section of the Federal Act that would make it unlawful for any licensed manufacturer or dealer outside of the District to ship a handgun to anyone within the District, without first seeeing a permit to purchase having been issued by the District authorities.
This feature is important in that it would effectively tighten the controls over mail-order guns which has been the subject of Senator Dodd's Subcommitteo To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, insofar as the District is concerned, the question of the problems of the mail
In addition, the bill would require a permit to possess a handgun. Now, the way the bill is written the Commissioners are required; there is mandatory language in the bill requiring the Commissioners to issue a handgun to a person who desires a handgun to be kept in his home or place of business.
Mr. TOBRINER. Issue a "license.”
Mr. GIMBEL. I am sorry; we are calling it a permit-permit to possess and permit to purchase.
The Commissioners would be required to issue a permit to possess a gun in your home or place of business so long as the person meets the standard that is set forth in the bill; and that is the standard of a person being of good moral character and a person of responsibility in light of his age, his reputation, employment, his medical history, his experience with firearms, and other relevant matters.
In addition, the Commissioners would have discretionary power to determine whether or not to issue a permit to possess a pistol to be carried concealed on one's person.
Now, under existing law a person must have a license to have a handgun if he wishes to carry it concealed on his person. I understand that there are about 22 such licenses outstanding at this time.
This permit to possess a concealed handgun would be a discretionary power on the part of the Commissioners whether or not to issue such a permit, again based on the standard of good moral character and responsibility and, in addition, the showing of the need to carry
In addition, the bill would require, before the delivery of a hand
you have a permit to carry a concealed gun, actually that is not what the bill says, is it? The bill says that he cannot have it within his possession or under his custody or control except in his dwelling house, place of business, or on other land owned and leased by him, any rifle or shotgun, unless such rifle or shotgun be unloaded.
Mr. GIMBEL. Under section 6—this is on page 10 of the printed bill, Mr. Chairman--section 6(a)(1) provides that the Commissioners may, in their discretion, issue a permit to a person to carry, either openly or concealed, a handgun.
And section 2
Mr. WHITENER. Yes, that is what I am trying to get at. Why should a man have to have a permit to carry one not concealed ?
Mr. GIMBEL. The existing law now does require such a license to carry a handgun openly or concealed in one's person off of his own property. In other words, outside of his place of business and outside of his home, or on other land he may possess.
Right now the District does require; the law does require that one have a permit, a license—it is called a license under the act—to carry a gun out on the streets. Mr. BROYHILL. Will the chairman yield? Mr. WHITENER. Yes. Mr. Broyhill.
Mr. BROYHILL. Suppose the person is going hunting, leaves his home.
Mr. GIMBEL. This applies to pistols only. The permit to—the current license to possess a gun applies only to pistols.
Mr. BROYHILL. I understood the question to have been asked concerning shotguns and rifles. Was that not it?
Mr. WHITENER. Yes.
Mr. GIMBEL. No. With regard to shotguns and rifles, the bill would require—the bill that is introduced would require that no one carry a shotgun or rifle loaded on the streets.
Mr. WHITENER. Well, now, off-
Mr. GIMBEL. We felt that it would be desirable to have something in the law that would stop a man from walking down the streets with a loaded rifle or loaded shotgun.
There is no provision in law now that would give police the authority to stop a man carrying a weapon that is not capable of being concealed.
Now, I understand that there has been some prosecution under the existing law of persons carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun, having it in his possession, even carrving it openly under the existing language of the law,
We wanted to make this absolutely clear that no one be permitted to walk down the streets of the city, in this urban area, carrying a loaded rifle or loaded shotgun.
Mr. WHITENER. Or a switchblade knife?
Mr. GIMBEL. That is correct. The switchblade knife happens to be a prohibited weapon.
Mr. WHITENER. But you do not have any idea you are going to stop those persons from carrying switchblade knives regardless of any statute put on the books; do you?
Mr. GIMBEL. I am not in the enforcement field of this, Mr. Chairman, but I think they prosecute them on it.
Mr. WHITENER. Mr. Broyhill.
Mr. BROYHILL. Mr. Chairman, just before Mr. Tobriner leaves, may I ask you just one question? May I ask it now?
Mr. WHITENER. Yes. Proceed.
Mr. BROYHILL. Mr. Tobriner, do you feel there is anything else that can be done or should be done, or that this committee should do, concerning the crime situation in the District of Columbia ?
Now, the chairman pointed out that there were several bills pending before the committee, several ideas and suggestions for improvement or dilution, and you have confined your testimony to those fields. Do you have any suggestions of other remedies or things that could be done to improve the situation?
Mr. TOBRINER. Well, sir, I testified before the joint hearing that I felt the attack on crime was a two-level attack: One, we should bend every immediate effort to protect our citizens to the extent of our ability to do so.
However, I did feel that there were other measures that would take a longer time to effectuate but which tended to go, in my opinion, to the roots and causes of crime, and which would tend, in my opinion, to eliminate a great deal of crime here.
These measures are not currently before the committee.
Mr. TOBRINER. A minimum wage legislation was one; better housing; the enforcement of the housing code was another.
I do not recall the detail of my recommendations at that time. They are in the printed record, however. And I felt that the identification of dropouts in schools at an early date and provising some semi-skills for those dropouts which would make them other than another pair of hands on the labor market was a desirable factor in the elimination of crime.
Those matters are not before this committee at this time.
Actually, another suggestion I made, namely, to tighten the antiloitering law, lay within the purview of the Commissioners' authority by regulation, and that has already been done.
Mr. WHITENER. Without objection, we will insert in the record, the Commissioner's letter to Chairman McMillan, dated March 6, 1963, regarding this and other matters referred to.