House Vote on Guns Takes Shameful Step toward Thwarting DC Democracy
Move Opposed by nearly 70 Percent of Americans
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September 17, 2008
Washington, DC - The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to strip Washingtonians of their power to enact local gun laws.
"While the country is in the midst of an economic crisis, the House of Representatives decided that among the nation's top priorities is a bill that would put more guns on the streets of our nation's capital and pull the trigger against democracy in DC," said Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of DC Vote. "The House took this shameful step just one day after the DC Council enacted a new law that greatly expands the right of gun ownership in the city."
The House today considered H.R. 6842, the National Capital Security, and Safety Act. H.R. 6842, introduced by DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, provides proponents of gun rights with a vehicle for ensuring that the DC government enacts legislation consistent with the requirements of the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller. The bill also respects local democracy in our nation's capital by allowing locally-elected officials to enact the District's own local gun laws.
The duly-elected DC government enacted emergency legislation just yesterday that significantly changes DC law by allowing people to own most semi-automatic firearms, keep them assembled and loaded in their homes, and substitutes a child safety provision for a previous provision that forced owners to keep firearms under locked storage. The DC Council is now considering permanent legislation.
Representative Travis Childers (D-MS) successfully offered an amendment to the Norton bill. The National Rifle Association-backed Childers amendment creates serious threats to public safety and homeland security by: allowing dangerous persons to stockpile semiautomatic assault weapons with high capacity ammunition magazines in DC; undermining federal laws to curtail gun trafficking; and prohibiting DC from passing laws that could discourage gun possession or use, including even basic safe storage requirements or age limits for the possession of assault rifles.
"This shameful act is in response to political threats made by the NRA," Zherka added. "The NRA and Representative Childers are not concerned with the rights of Washingtonians. Their goals are political. But, their actions are opposed by nearly 70 percent of Americans who believe that DC will become less safe if Congress overrides DC's local gun laws."
The Childers amendment is hypocritical because it does not apply to the Capitol grounds (where firearms are still prohibited), nor does it apply to the capital cities of the states represented by the Members of Congress who support the amendment. None of the Members who voted for the Childers amendment represent the people of Washington, DC.
DC Vote commissioned a national poll conducted by KRC Research on Congress' impending vote to override the gun laws in the District of Columbia.
The poll showed that 69 percent of Americans oppose Congress passing a law to eliminate Washington, DC's local gun laws. Additionally, 60 percent of Americans believe that Washington will become less safe if Congress takes that step. The poll was a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,004 U.S. adults conducted September 12-14, 2008. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
"We call on the Senate leadership to resist the lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association, and instead allow Washingtonians to go through a local, democratic process when rewriting local gun laws," said Zherka. "Other localities are going through this same legislative process. Congress should afford Washingtonians the same respect and deference it is showing to communities around the country."
View the posted results for U.S. Public Opinion About Gun Regulation in Washington, DC conducted by KRC Research. (PDF 17 kb)
View a PowerPoint presentation with graphical and visual display of data from the poll questions. (PDF 184 kb).