New Congress takes first whack at D.C. gun laws
The first concrete attempt to undo city gun laws has hit the congressional hopper: Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have introduced the "Second Amendment Enforcement Act," which is largely the same as a measure that failed to gain support in the previous, Democratic-controlled Congress.
With the new Republican majority in the lower house, the bill will likely encounter few obstacles from the chamber's leadership. Jordan is the leader of the influential Republican Study Committee. Ross takes over as lead Democratic sponsor of the bill from Travis Childers (D-Miss.), who was defeated in November.
The bill, per a release from Ross' office, "would repeal the D.C. semiautomatic gun ban, restore the right of self defense in the home, authorize D.C. residents to purchase firearms and ammunition, repeal overly-restrictive registration requirements and ensure that firearms may be transported and carried for legitimate purposes."
In other words, District residents would encounter far fewer obstacles to purchasing and keeping a gun in the city. A Washington Post analysis of city records published on Monday showed that city residents have registered more than 1,400 firearms since July 2008, when handgun ownership was allowed for the first time in some 40 years pursuant to a Supreme Court ruling.
The legislation comes with the strong backing of the National Rifle Association. "Today, self defense in the District of Columbia is a luxury item," said Chris Cox, the NRA's top lobbyist, in the Ross release. "The hefty fees and the almost insurmountable mountain of red tape put in place by the D.C. mayor and city council makes it near impossible for the average D.C. resident to have a firearm in their home to defend themselves."
District Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) assailed the measure in a release of her own today. She vowed to fight the measure: "They underestimate our residents if they think this city will tolerate autocratic rule from Congress any more than the Jordan and Ross districts would tolerate dictatorship from Congress on local matters," Norton said.
Congressional observers widely expect that some sort of D.C. gun measure is likely to pass the current Congress, though a standalone bill may not be the most likely avenue for it.
While the House bill might have a clear path to the floor, a Senate bill is unlikely to have leadership and committee support. But there is little doubt a Senate floor vote on D.C. gun laws would succeed: When a D.C. voting rights measure came to the floor of a Democratic Senate in 2009, senators voted overwhelmingly to attach a gun provision before final passage.
As for the feelings of District residents themselves: The latest Post polling on the issue, from January 2008, found that four out of five respondents felt that "control[ling] gun ownership" outweighed the need to "protect the rights of Americans to own guns." More than three-quarters of residents approved of the city's gun laws at the time, which banned private ownership of handguns.
| February 11, 2011; 4:36 PM ET
Categories: The District
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