Activists get meeting with key Senate gun-bill sponsor
A small group of activists held a "pray-in" this morning in the Senate offices of a key Democratic proponent of a bill that would discard virtually all city gun laws, earning themselves a brief meeting.
The targeting of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) was organized by D.C. Vote and featured three clergy members -- the Rev. Dr. E. Gail Anderson Holness, president of the Council of Churches of Greater Washington; the Rev. Mark A. Schaefer, a Methodist chaplain at American University; and Roger Burns of the Friends Meeting of Washington. They were joined by D.C. Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka and Outreach Director Eugene D. Kinlow.
The bill in question was co-introduced last month by Tester and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and would "make it easier to buy guns and ammunition in the District and to repeal local registration and firearm storage requirements," according to an article by The Post's Ann E. Marimow. A companion bill with bipartisan sponsors has also been introduced in the House. Activists targeted Tester first, hoping that, as a Democrat, he might be more sympathetic toward the overwhelmingly Democratic city.
The protesters arrived at Tester's offices in the Hart Senate Office Building shortly before 9:30 and waited in the lobby for about 30 minutes. The five stood in a circle, taking turns saying prayers as receptionists typed and answered calls.
Once he arrived, Tester spoke outside with the activists for about 10 minutes.
"This is for us an essence of our democracy," Zherka told him, adding that the city's strict gun legislation "is essential in our view to us maintaining a healthy society." He noted that a federal judge recently ruled that the current laws comport with the 2nd Amendment.
"I don't think you would ask or accept the D.C. Council legislating on behalf of Montana," he said. "We would like that same kind of respect and equality."
Holness invoked the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Height and the Book of Amos in the course of her plea to the Montanan. "I appeal to your spiritual side, and I'm a lawyer as well, so we appeal to the government side," she said. She finished by appealing to his political side: "We believe that because you're a Democrat, you have it in your spirit to say, 'Yes, we can.' "
She included a personal anecdote -- how a gun-wielding man last October was shot by police and died on the grounds of her church, Christ Our Redeemer AME in Petworth.
Tester was polite but noncommittal.
"I appreciate the perspective," he told them. "If I'm going to be right straight honest with you, we can agree to disagree. I get the local control stuff. I appreciate that. The 2nd Amendment stuff is a little more firm in my soul because of where it is in the Constitution."
Holness pressed Tester on whether or not he might decide to withdraw his support of the bill.
"Gosh, no, I can't," the senator said.
Zherka pledged not to rest until Tester repudiated the bill: "We're going to come back until he takes his name off."
May 20, 2010; 1:13 PM ET
Categories: Congressional Oversight , Mike DeBonis | Tags: D.C. Vote, Ilir Zherka, Jon Tester, gun bill, guns, local control, voting rights
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