D.C. clergy to Tester: Drop your gun bill
||Billings Gazette (MT)
||Thursday, May 20, 2010
HELENA — A group of clergy and voting activists held a 45-minute impromptu prayer vigil outside Sen. Jon Tester’s Washington office Thursday morning before meeting with the Montana Democrat to urge him to drop his support for a gun rights bill.
“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. Dr. Gail Anderson-Holness, the president of the Council of Churches of Great Washington, in a prepared release. “Today, we prayed that Sen. Tester will reconsider his (pro-gun) bill and support local control over local issues. We know our message was heard.”
At issue is a bill Tester co-sponsored last month with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain. The bill would throw out many of the district’s locally passed gun control measures and make it easier to buy guns and ammunition in the nation’s capital. It would also allow residents of the district to own semi-automatic firearms, which is currently prohibited by locally passed ordinance.
The bill has ignited two Washington, D.C., camps — religious leaders who say easing gun restrictions would make the city more dangerous and advocates for District of Columbia rights, who say local leaders already have passed gun laws which have withstood a legal challenge.
Tester said in an interview Thursday the bill is about making sure the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment applies everywhere.
He said he does not believe tighter gun control would make the district safer and said violence is “about hopelessness and poverty.”
Tester agreed to meet with the activists for about 10 minutes Thursday, telling them they might “agree to disagree.”
“I get the local control stuff. I appreciate that,” he said. “The Second Amendment stuff is a little more firm in my soul because of where it is in the Constitution.”
The group said they came to Tester’s office because he is a Democrat and might be more sympathetic to their concerns as a Democratic-leaning city.
Holness asked Tester to consider dropping his support of the bill.
“Gosh, no, I can’t,” Tester said.