Tester says no to D.C. anti-gun activists
||Great Falls Tribune (MT)
||Friday, May 21, 2010
WASHINGTON — Anti-gun activists from Washington, D.C., are pressing Sen. Jon Tester to withdraw his support for a bill that would allow residents of the District of Columbia to bear arms with few restrictions, but the Montana Democrat said he has no plans to do so.
A group of five advocates, representing Washington clergy and people seeking greater voting rights for D.C. residents, showed up at Tester's Senate office Thursday morning for an impromptu meeting, during which they asked him to change his mind and prayed that he might. Tester is the lead co-sponsor of the Second Amendment Enforcement Act, a bill originally drafted by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"As clergy in the nation's capital, we have presided over the wakes and funerals of people who have been gunned down in acts of violence," said the Rev. Gail Anderson-Holness, president of the Council of Churches of Greater Washington.
Although the Supreme Court in 2008 struck down the decades-old D.C. firearms ban, Washington maintains a number of barriers to gun ownership, including a registration process that opponents say is cumbersome and overly restrictive. The McCain-Tester bill, which has 17 Senate co-sponsors, including fellow Montana Democrat Max Baucus, would eliminate most of those barriers.
After the meeting, Tester told the Great Falls Tribune that he "appreciated" the activists' concerns, but he's not budging on the issue.
"For me, it's a matter of the Constitution, where law-abiding citizens have the right to keep and bear arms," he said. "It's our nation's capital, and I think for the Second Amendment not to apply is not something that's negotiable for me."
Tester is an outspoken supporter of gun rights, receiving an 'A' grade from the National Rifle Association when he first ran for the Senate in 2006. He also has waded into legal battles, signing on to a brief submitted to the Supreme Court backing the repeal of Washington D.C.'s gun ban.
He also said he supports voting rights for Washington residents, whose congressional representative does not have the right to vote on the floor of the House.
One activist who talked to Tester on Thursday said that was like the senator "extending one hand and slapping us with the other."
"It's absolutely hypocritical for Senator Tester to say he supports D.C. voting rights and democracy for the district, and then turn around and try to wipe away the city's local democracy," said Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote. "I'm sure that he would not allow anyone in the Congress to try to impose its will on the people and single Montana out for special treatment, and say Montana's laws on whatever issue ought to be changed because the federal government or Congress thinks it ought to be changed."