Sherwood’s Notebook: Guns, Azaleas and Nats

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It’s spring and all kinds of things are blooming.

Last week we wrote in jest about giving in to the gun guys and opening a gun shop on Capitol Hill. That was in response to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s proposal to scrap city gun laws in favor of more lenient federal rules.

Well, we don’t think the city will get around to opening a gun shop in defiance of Congress, but a retail gun store in the nation’s capital is not entirely out of the question.

Last Friday on the WAMU “Politics Hour,” Police Chief Cathy Lanier noted that the sky has not fallen since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 threw out the city’s ban on handguns and a federal court last year said the District could regulate but not ban concealed-carry weapons.

“Everybody fears the sky is falling” with some gun legalization, Lanier said, “but the numbers are not that high.”

She said about 4,000 people have opted for a license to have a handgun in the home. She said only about 25 people have obtained concealed carry permits while she has denied another 25.

“It’s not this surge of people coming in, that we’re going to see like thousands of concealed carry permits. It’s just not happening,” Lanier said.

In the past, the chief has stood with other city officials and mayors when they have opposed relaxed handgun laws in the District. She’s had to manage the change.

But could the city one day have a retail gun shop like we proposed? “Would it be OK with you if the city were to open a retail gun store?” we asked.

“Well,” Lanier began, “if we have concealed carry regulations — and I am very comfortable with concealed carry permits that I have issued, very comfortable — if there was a regulated way for people to purchase them in the District, you know, I don’t have any issue with that.”

NBC4 reported the chief’s remarks, but her breakthrough comment that a retail gun store could open here got surprisingly little media reaction.

■ Visit the Arboretum! We’re all excited again this season for the cherry blossom trees that just now are breaking out in blooms. But a short distance from the Tidal Basin sits the underused, underappreciated and underfunded United States National Arboretum.

Some of the best good news this year came this past week. The Arboretum, which had been open only four days a week, will again be open seven days a week beginning this Friday. (Sequestration cuts had severely limited funds for the full-time operation.)

“I’m thrilled that it’s happening in time for spring,” said consultant and fan Janice Kaplan. “Not only because the azaleas are a springtime event, but this year we also have the eagles [nesting]. It’s an added reason. It’s a good development for the residents of Washington and people who visit our nation’s capital from all over the world.”

If you haven’t been to the Arboretum, you should go. You can even buy surplus Kanuma bonsai soil that’s only available this Saturday (no credit cards!). But the real reason to go is that the Arboretum off New York Avenue NE is 446 acres of sprawling woodlands and fields with nearly 10 miles of winding roadways.

Kaplan noted that the Friends of the National Arboretum group has been working hard to get the facility reopened seven days a week. “Funding has come through now,” she told the Notebook, “but residents need to realize that it will take both public and private funds to support the Arboretum in the future.”

The future is now. Go see it. And we haven’t even mentioned the historic U.S. Capitol columns that stand majestically in one of the open fields. And if you’re interested in volunteering or otherwise helping, email The Friends group’s website is

■ Go Nats and neighborhood. It was a difficult TV task on Monday, spending the day outside Nationals Park and talking to fans headed into opening day against the New York Mets. Difficult, but we managed to get through the long hours of pleasant, cool, sunshine-filled weather to report for NBC4. Don’t pity us too much.

The Nats kind of threw away the game, with three unearned runs for the Mets. But as we labored outside the center field gate, we noted that while the team has its ups and downs, land area around the ballpark is doing nothing but going up and up and up.

Just since the end of last season, a 50,000-square-foot Harris Teeter has opened (your Notebook shops there), as has a 28,000-square-foot Vida health club, along with another 219 units of new housing around the Yards Park area.

Those stats come from Michael Stevens, who heads the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District. He’s got more.

“More important for the fans, we’ve seen nine new restaurants open,” Stevens said. “What [the fans] are going to see are a lot of cranes as well. We currently have nine residential projects under construction. That total is 1,850 residential units under construction.”

Stevens has lived through the seemingly lean years that struck with the recession, just about the time Nationals Park opened. But the progress has been slow and steady and is about to bloom even more.

“This is our second wave of massive development,” he said. And with all that’s underway now, Stevens says there is enough planned development to last another 15 years.

And you can watch a lot of today’s projects rush to be ready in 2018 when Nats Park hosts its first All-Star Game. That game was announced on Monday, too. The only bad thing that happened this past Monday was the Nats lost. But the city isn’t losing.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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