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D.C. police chief: Wal-Mart selling guns 'makes sense'

Thursday - 7/7/2011, 6:14pm  ET

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(WTOP)

Ask the Chief

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier with WTOP's Mark Segraves

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WASHINGTON -- The D.C. chief of police said Thursday that Wal-Mart could be one of the solutions to the city's current void for residents who wish to register handguns, although the retailer says it has no plans to play such a role.

A de facto ban exists for gun registration in the District, after the sole licensed firearms dealer went out of business earlier this year.

A retailer like Wal-Mart filling that void "makes a lot of sense," the chief said on WTOP's "Ask the Chief" program with Mark Segraves.

"You have Wal-Mart and others that are coming to town and willing to take that on," she added. "Are they willing to take that on and become the licensed firearms dealer in the District?"

D.C. must come up with a solution to this issue, Lanier said, or the city will start to see other challenges.

Wal-Mart -- considered the largest retailer in America -- is among "a few options on the table," the chief said. But Steven Restivo, Wal-Mart's director of community affairs, says the retailer has no plans to sell guns in D.C. stores.

"It's certainly not a lucrative business," Lanier said of the additional problems with recruiting other vendors.

The United States Supreme Court overturned the D.C. ban on handguns in 2008. Since then, Charles Sykes, the proprietor of C S Exchange, has processed more than 1,000 handguns for District residents. Sykes told WTOP in April he had stopped taking orders.

He does not sell guns, but transfers them from out-of-state stores.

In case you missed the program, listen to the full audio at right or check out this live blog:

10:56 a.m., speaking about Metro Transit Police staffing:

Metro ridership is up something like 80 percent in Chinatown on weekends. I don't think they have enough officers to keep up with the increased ridership.

10:55 a.m., speaking about redrawing police districts:

We hope to have this finalized by mid-August. It's going to take another 4 or 5 months after we finalize it.

10:53 a.m., speaking about three officers who allegedly beat a man at a downtown nightclub:

The officers were not working, they were off duty. It involved a lot more people than just the three officers. "From what I've seen, there was a lot of people involved in this fight."

Internal Affairs is investigating it. I don't know what their status is. I believe they're coming to work but not conducting police duties.

10:52 a.m., speaking about the DC9 investigation, classified as not a homicide:

The D.C. medical examiner ruled that a homicide. The U.S. Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute as a homicide. The statement I made that night was based on the information I had at the time.

10:46 a.m., speaking about an appeals court overturning a conviction from officers using a GPS tracking device on a drug dealer's car to find his stash:

We did have a warrant. The question decided by the Supreme Court is it has long been the position of the court that on public space, there is no expectation of privacy. GPS units are not governed by that. In this case, the officers got a warrant for the GPS even though they didn't have to.

The courts have to choose a side here.

10:43 a.m., speaking about staffing levels:

We're down to 3,835 sworn officers. The money set aside for hiring will begin in October. We'll hire our first class then. There's been some discussion of additional money to hire even more officers.

New officers take six months to train.

During that time, the attrition rate for retiring officers is 13 or 14 per month. 1,100 are eligible to retire in the coming years.

I had 8 come across my desk in one day. "The people that are eligible are starting to take advantage and go."

10:41 a.m., speaking about firearms dealing in D.C.:

The one firearm dealer in D.C. still has not reopened. There just isn't the market for it in the District. We don't know if Wal-Mart could take that on as they come into the city.

"It's certainly not a lucrative business, so how do you encourage others to take on that venture?"

10:35 a.m., speaking about policing Fourth of July:

In the seventh district, more than 2,000 pieces of fireworks were recovered. In the fifth district, thousands more pieces were recovered.

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