Under a new mayor’s order, the Metropolitan Police Department now has the authority to operate as the city’s sole federal firearms licensee, or FFL—the only entity able to authorize the transfer of guns inside the District.
D.C. has no commercial gun stores. So guns must be purchased in another jurisdiction and then transferred through a federally licensed dealer in the District, who processes it for a fee of $125.
Since 2008, when the Supreme Court ruled D.C.’s firearms ban unconstitutional, gun ownership has gone through one man: Charles Sykes. But on March 14, Sykes “abruptly ceased accepting any new business,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a press briefing on Monday.
Reached by phone, Sykes, who moved his operation to MPD headquarters in 2011, says that there were simply “too many people coming in every day” to continue operations. Sykes declined to elaborate on whether the uptick was related to the pandemic, or whether he plans to continue operations after the demand levels out.
Less than a week after Sykes stopped operating, some gun rights advocates noticed and began clamoring for another option.
The city immediately started working on alternatives “so that we wouldn’t run into any constitutional issues or open ourselves up to meddling in our gun laws from outside groups,” Bowser said. “The solution that we came up with was to delegate to MPD the authority to operate as the District’s FFL while there is no other commercial alternative. And once there is a viable commercial alternative licensed to operate in D.C., MPD will no longer need to serve this role.”
MPD explained how the process works in an emailed statement: “As always, D.C. residents can go to another state (for example, Maryland or Virginia) and purchase long guns (rifles/shotguns). The dealer will hold the firearm until MPD approves and registers the firearm. Once it is registered, then the D.C. resident can go pick the firearm up from the dealer.”
Demand for guns has increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, per New York Times. Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigations reported more than 3.7 million background check initiated in March, the highest number ever reported through the National Instant Background Check System, which started in 1998. Firearms dealers from Phoenix to Upstate New York have reported higher than normal sales as quarantined consumers fear break-ins and burglaries on their stored-up supplies, the Washington Post reports.