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Congress Tries To Blow Away D.C. Gun Law

This much is clear: The nonsense that Democrats peddle about being the party that will advance the cause of home rule and voting rights for the District of Columbia is nothing more than campaign blather. When push comes to shove, as it did today on the House floor, the Dems are perfectly happy to elbow Washingtonians out of the way.

Eighty-five Democrats joined with 181 Republicans to approve a bill that strips the District of its ability to write its own new gun laws in response to this summer's U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the D.C. ban on handgun possession.

Of course, Republicans aren't exactly stepping up to take on the battle for voting rights, either. Even Rep. Tom Davis, the Fairfax Republican who led the fight over the past few years to get a seat in the House for the District, voted for this bill, which proves once again that the little democracy the District does have is a mere show, a game Congress plays to give half a million Americans the illusion that they have some say in the governance of their own city. And while many Democrats who supported House Resolution 6842 may claim that they only did so because it's campaign season and they needed to protect themselves against the NRA and gun rights supporters in their home districts, Davis is a lame duck, not running for anything, totally free to vote his conscience. Which we have to assume he did today, showing his true colors after years of advocacy on behalf of D.C. voting rights.

[UPDATE, 7:30 p.m.: Davis spokesman Brian McNicoll argues that Davis's vote was not a violation of his prior support for D.C. home rule. McNicoll says the congressman had earlier supported an amendment to the bill that would have "preserved the right of the District to determine how it would go about complying with Heller," the Supreme Court ruling. But when the measure came to a floor vote without any such protections for home rule, Davis "felt the need - as did others - to send a message to the D.C. Council that this needs to be addressed as the court intended." McNicoll claims that Davis will get a demerit from the NRA for his vote at the committee level and that it's the Democrats' fault that the final bill went to the floor with such a strong anti-D.C. focus. Still--my editorializing here--when it came to that final vote, Davis turned against the cause he has fought so hard for over so many years.]

The local congressional delegation split largely by party and state on this measure. Northern Virginia's Republican House members--Davis, Frank Wolf and Rob Wittman--voted to strip the District of its right to regulate guns. The lone Democrat representing northern Virginia, Jim Moran of Alexandria, sided with the District, voting no. In suburban Maryland, the Democrats--Chris Van Hollen, Steny Hoyer, and Donna Edwards--all voted against the bill, as did Republican Wayne Gilchrest, who lost his seat in a primary earlier this year and, like Davis, is on his way out. Republican Roscoe Bartlett voted for the bill. The District, of course, has no vote in Congress.

One of the Democrats who led the battle to stuff the District even as the D.C. Council yesterday moved to ease its proposed restrictions on gun ownership, Rep. Travis Childers of Mississippi, put out a statement claiming that "I do not condone Washington, D.C.'s lack of congressional representation." Childers said he took this step only "to restore the rights of gun owners."

It's true that D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and members of the D.C. Council initially reacted to the Supreme Court ruling by coming up with gun ownership regulations so onerous and restrictive that they were not only defying the court but daring gun rights advocates to sue them.

"I am pretty confident that the people of the District of Columbia want us to err in the direction of trying to restrict guns," Fenty told me on the day he announced the new gun rules in July. That day, he smiled broadly at the suggestion that what he was really trying to do was make it as hard as possible for Washingtonians to keep a loaded gun at home.

He's not smiling anymore. Yesterday, the Council hurried to ease those restrictions, allowing city residents to own semi-automatics and to keep weapons unlocked and loaded in their homes. But that wasn't enough for Congress, where the imperative was to send a message to the rest of the country that Washington would not be allowed to choose its own laws or follow the dictates of its own residents.

The folks at D.C. Vote, the voting rights advocacy group, commissioned a poll this week that found 69 percent of Americans opposed Congress stripping the District of its right to create its own gun laws. Even if the poll is spot on, those aren't the voters today's House vote was all about--no, this was about assuring reelection for Democrats and Republicans alike who feel threatened by the gun lobby and its supporters.

Fenty and company brought this on themselves with their arrogant attempt to turn around the Supreme Court decision. In all likelihood, the Senate won't get around to voting on today's House bill, so perhaps yesterday's revised D.C. gun laws will eventually stand. But in the meantime, even more damage has been done to the fragile concept of home rule.

By Marc Fisher |  September 17, 2008; 1:23 PM ET
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Waaaaaaa

Posted by: DC Voter | September 17, 2008 1:32 PM

I suppose this proves we're really one nation under the NRA with bullets and gun powder for all.

Posted by: EricS | September 17, 2008 1:34 PM

Here's hoping 85 Democrats and 181 Republicans are victims of their own law.

Guns are for hunters. There's no game in DC, so only idiots have guns.

Posted by: BfloRhodes | September 17, 2008 1:42 PM

Interesting column. Wouldn't have thought you'd be opposed to the use of federal authority (and in a fairly mild manner) to protect civil rights that were being threatened and abused by local officials.

Posted by: Civil Rights | September 17, 2008 1:49 PM

Good!

No registration!

Posted by: johng1 | September 17, 2008 2:03 PM

Marc, are there any statistics on how many DC people successfully use - or could have used if they'd had one - guns to protect themselves in their homes, versus how many people are killed by accident by guns kept in the house? The media report periodically about accidental shootings, usually by young people who find guns in the house, but I recall only one "self protection" shooting over many years (Carl Rowan, Jr.)

It seems to me, from west of the park, that most gun use in DC is by young males in the less affluent areas settling scores or robbing people. I once had a neighbor who collected old guns, but no one that I know is chaffing at the bit to get a gun for protection or any other purpose.

I fear easing up on gun possession is going to exacerbate the violence in the most violence prone areas of the city. A Capitol Hill employee was shot in the head several years ago. While Capitol Hill is not as dangerous as it was years ago when I worked there, it occurs to me that a young thug with a semi-automatic might think Hill denizens represent good possible pickings for robbery at gun point.

Posted by: M. Cheney | September 17, 2008 2:09 PM

Fisher, too bad, the District had the opportunity to adhere to the Supreme Court ruling, and, as you state the Mayor arrogantly attempted to undermind the ruling by moving forward with a gun ban dressed as regulation.

This is not about "home-rule" it is about a "town" council disrespecting a Supreme Court ruling. No state in the union is allowed that privilege, most certainly not the Federal City called the District of Columbia.

At this point, with this Council, this Mayor and it's gustapo acting Attorney General, I say, Federal City FOREVER!!!

Posted by: Ward6ForNow | September 17, 2008 2:10 PM

"this was about assuring reelection for Democrats and Republicans alike who feel threatened by the gun lobby and its supporters."

It couldn't have been over the principle of the matter, could it? It MUST have been that "Evil Gun Lobby"tm at work. Because if it wasn't the "Evil Gun Lobby"tm after all, then reality would really hurt, wouldn't it?

Posted by: K-Romulus | September 17, 2008 2:41 PM

I forgot to add: Marc, you can come off your high-horse now. You know very well that the anti-gun-owner Senate will kill this bill for you. Relax - the fix is in. Anti-gun-owners 1; DC residents 0.

Posted by: K-Romulus | September 17, 2008 2:49 PM

It is DC's own fault for snubbing their nose at the Supreme Court's. Even the new updated gun law regulations do not adhere to the Supreme Court's decision. If DC would only comply to the directive from the court then they would have no problems. But they insist on doing things their own way even if it means spending taxpayers money needlessly defending a regulation that they know they can not win.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 17, 2008 2:49 PM

"Civil rights"?? Now gun ownership is a "civil right"? Thats just stupid.

Posted by: 13th ST | September 17, 2008 2:53 PM

Unless you live in Dc and have had thugs walk up on your property and rob you and your family, or even run up in your house like the police and rob you then you need to keep your mouth shut. I have had both to happen and it because they know law bidden dc residents/families with young kids will not tipically have illegal firearms to protect them selves. If I was able to have a gun someone would have been shot both times. Fortunately for me we had enough money at home ($200.00) that they were satisfied. If we did not I would probally not be writing this email. And for your info, I ws born and rased in DC in a very nice section of washington DC home value of 500k or more so im not in the slums of DC. And the thugs recongnized it. For anyone to suggest a family move is just straight arragant and ignorant.,

Posted by: DC Gun Ban | September 17, 2008 3:06 PM

Just in time...the way the economy and the "war on terror" are both going, we're all going to need guns to fight one another for survival. Then again, there's the perhaps overly rational thought that our priorities are a tad misplaced. Instead of tinkering with DC's gun laws, perhaps the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the rise of China, Russian aggression, North Korean nukes, energy policy, health care, and our nation's infrastructure could be attended to...naw, never mind, let's just go back to shootin' at each other.

Posted by: Bob22003 | September 17, 2008 3:11 PM

Marc - D.C. pols like Fenty, Nickles, and Mendelson are soley responsible for Congress stepping in. Congress wouldn't have had a sufficient justification to butt in if the bill the D.C. Council passed yesterday (allowing people to keep their gun unlocked and allowing semi-auto handguns) was enacted after the Supreme Court decision instead of Fenty thumbing his nose at the court decision. The plan by D.C. to block any federally licensed gun dealers from opening shops by using restrictive zoning has also allowed Congress to step in. If D.C. residents are opposed to firearms they only have their own elected officials to blame for Congress' actions.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 17, 2008 3:17 PM

This is all a dog-and-pony show, the House knew the Senate would never take up this bill before adjourning.

Posted by: D.C. | September 17, 2008 3:25 PM

If one of these congressman's districts were incorrectly applying a supreme court ruling and congress tried to force them, I think the congressman would be furious for the federal government stepping in. If the alteration of the gun laws is still illegal, the people of dc can appeal to the courts again. If DC is choosing not to obey, the supreme court can hold officials in contempt just like they would if the mayor of some backwoods Mississippi district was violating a supreme court decision.

Posted by: fairfax | September 17, 2008 3:25 PM

Here's the rub, folks. The issue isn't over whether you think guns ought to be banned or are protected by the Constitution. It's about the city thumbing their noses at the Supreme Court. That is pretty much akin to begging Congress to get involved, especially considering how much Congress loves getting into our business in the first place. Fenty and Co. should have just done what the Court told them to do the first time. Hell, considering the yahoos on the Hill, we're lucky they didn't send in the Natl. Guard....or the the PG County "Police"....

Posted by: j-man | September 17, 2008 3:34 PM

What part of the Constitution doesn't the DC Council understand?

Oh yeah, the 2nd Amendment part.

Ok, so Congress is helping them with their reading comprehension. It's all good.

And to all of the Fascist gun-grabbers, I bet you'd be singing a different tune if the Council had banned abortions, which always results in a human death, instead of guns.

Ted Kennedy's car has killed more people than any firearm that I own.

Posted by: Rufus | September 17, 2008 3:40 PM

Marc, did it occur to you that Davis and others may have voted for what they construed as the constitutional protection of the CITIZENS of DC ?? (They do take an oath to uphold that document, after all.)

Your slander of Davis, whom you formerly praised as principled as long as he voted the way you liked, shows YOU as the fair-weather friend more than him.
.

Posted by: gitarre | September 17, 2008 3:43 PM

"For anyone to suggest a family move is just straight arragant and ignorant."

So when I point out your ignorance of the English language, is that arrogance?

An armed society is a polite society. I bet the young hoodlums responsible for the majority of violent crime in this city would behave with a bit more law-abiding respect if even one in ten people were packing heat. After working retail for three years on 8th Street SE and getting more than our share of junkies trying to steal either money or goods, there is little to convince me that being armed wouldn't've helped our chances.

Posted by: 20910 | September 17, 2008 3:52 PM

Fisher is right. this is a self-inflicted wound of the DC government. When the Supreme Court ruling came down DC officials acted like the Alalbama and Mississippi segregationaists did when the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were passed - they went into denial and tried to extend by subterfuge injustice and the violation of fundamental constitutional rights. Richly ironic, isn't it. The DC government blundered into the wrong law suit at the wrong time before the wrong judges; and lost big time. DC politicians succeeded where the NRA and all the right wing groups could not in setting back so called "gun control" in this country for at least 25 years. Splendidly done, fellows!

Posted by: Lou Knapp | September 17, 2008 4:03 PM

the following is a quote from the attorney representing the 22-year-old in who killed three patrons of a PG County pizzeria during the Super Bowl: (With the gun in his pocket,) "he could deal with it and at the same time feel protected. The gun offered him the protection he felt he needed at the same time without bringing in his whole group of friends, which would guarantee an almost immediate altercation."

Probably not an uncommon sentiment on the street, but in spite of that, Congress wants to make it even easier for anyone to possess a gun in DC and carry it outside the home. I suspect that there will be many more incidents like the one at the pizzeria than there will be legitimate self-defense, in spite of what the House Reps argue. At the same time, I would expect to see an increase in situations where the police overreact (i.e., pull the trigger) on the assumption that someone they're attempting to arrest may have a weapon.

Posted by: eomcmars | September 17, 2008 4:07 PM

What arrogance! I live East of the park and realize the need to protect myself and my family. The media does not report about "self Protection" because they don't hear about it. Trust me there are honest working good people out there that would rather be "Tried by 12 than carried by 6"! Just recently someone posted a story of how he/she protected themselves during an attempted car-jacking...and claimed that they shot the thugs! Join some of the Police District blogs to see how many innocent law abiding citizens are mugged, robbed, assaulted while at home, walking their dog's, going to work etc. And yes....all far and near from the park!

The story about someone being robbed on Capitol Hill indicates your sheltered life! Folks are robbed and shot at everyday...all over DC! Maybe you commute to the Hill from West of the Park!??? HUH?? As for any would be robber, HE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT THE GUN LAW WITH REGARDS TO HIM PURCHASING A GUN! Even you can buy one for a few hundred dollars...even in the PARK! What will it take for that to get through to people???? Moving forward, the would be robber, will now have to ponder and be concerned that the "Muggee" might not be an easy prey at home or business etc.

My sarcasm is intended, but this is a serious issue. Yes let's do away with ALL guns, but that is not going to happen. So since they exist, guns should be monitored and registered but there should be less fear mongering notes and views out here, including yours.

This is from someone that "carried" legally on the "job" and was able to protect myself and have...from would be Thugs in broad daylight (incidently...close by the park) it is scary out there...East or West anywhere in the city!

Posted by: Please read M.Cheney | September 17, 2008 4:09 PM

Good for Congress! I actually live in DC. I am not some gun-loving nut. But if the DC council cannot get its act together, and refuses to abide by the Supreme Court ruling (which I did not agree with either, but hey - it's now law), then let Congress teach them that endless procrastination will not be tolerated. Acting in a manner to circumvent a legal ruling is wrong, whether it's Bush doing it, or the DC council doing it. And it is very clear that is precisely what the DC council was doing. They were trying to find a way to "allow" guns, but make it so difficult and cumbersome that nobody could get them legally. Why is it that DC moves at the speed of light when it comes to parking tickets and revenue, but suddenly goes into slow motion when it comes to implementing the Supreme Court decision? Ever hear about "all deliberate speed?"

Posted by: Gasmonkey | September 17, 2008 4:44 PM

20910, you're all slogan and no thought. While it may sound cool to say "an armed society is a polite society," in reality that is BS. I grew up in the desert southwest, where it was nearly dogma that you get a BB gun in the 4th or 5th grade, a 22 rifle in the 6th or 7th, a 410 in the 8th, etc. Gentle progression right up to your rite-of-passage .30-06 deer rifle. Everybody was "armed" and society was no more polite there than here. People got shot in bars and parking lots over silly arguments. Kids got shot with parents' guns. Local nuts shot at schoolkids trespassing across their property on a shortcut to school. People loaded up shotgun shells with rock salt and bacon grease, and blasted away. Anybody who really lived in an "armed" society can tell you that the slogan about it being a polite society is ignorant BS.

Posted by: Gasmonkey | September 17, 2008 4:53 PM

Why do you wait till the dead last paragraph to say "Fenty and company brought this on themselves" rather than leading with that? If anyone did harm to the cause of home rule it was Fenty and everyone else in the DC government who openly defied a very clear Supreme Court ruling.

Don't get me wrong - I think it's somewhat unfortunate that DC is being forced to alter a position that so much of the populace favors. I think Scalia reached a bit in parts of the decision. But like it or not, they're the final authority in the land when it comes to the law. And the opinion was explicitly clear on some matters - like automatic pistols - that DC decided to turn around and flat-out defy.

Fair or not - and it's not - DC is in the role of the teenager asking for new responsibilities and rights rather than having them assumed to be present the way it is in every State in the Union. The last thing you want to do when asking someone to do more things on your own is to behave irresponsibly, but that's exactly what DC did when it drafted those laws. The fact that they did the right thing when faced with imminent intervention should get them no credit at all.

Maybe the House members should have been more principled in how they used the authority they shouldn't have, but the current system has them in charge. Until that gets changed, who's really the bad actor here? The people in ill-deserved authority who step in to rectify the deliberate misdeeds or the people asking for more independence who demonstrate absolutely no prudence in how they use it?

Posted by: Don | September 17, 2008 5:01 PM

I would like to arm my trunkmonkey. It provides valuable assistance to me when I forget my keys in the car, and can protect the car from thieves when I am not there. Other than that, I only need to feed it bananas and clean up the monkey poop.

Posted by: Trunkmonkey | September 17, 2008 5:02 PM

DC should have realized by now that only Bush can poop on the constitution and get away with it with zero outrage. (by outrage I mean uber-fast congressional action.)

Posted by: Anonymous | September 17, 2008 5:30 PM

I find this hilarious. DC did bring this on themselves with the stupid law they passed. But Congress is so hypocritical. This country was founded on the principle of no taxation without representation. Yet there are 500,000 people in DC who are taxed without a say how their hard earned money is spent. But the House is concerned about the rights of citizens? Please, they're trying to score political points and show the folks back home that they actually accomplished some thing this year. What a waste of time.

Posted by: Omar | September 17, 2008 5:31 PM

Will congress also step in and fix all the real problems in this city if they are so powerful over us? Or are they just powerful when it comes to the rights of inanimate objects?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 17, 2008 5:32 PM

GSWs kill. In this case, GSW is Government Simply Wrong. Fenty and Nickles shot themselves in the foot, and didn't even need a semi-automatic to do it. *They* appealed to SCOTUS and lost (setting a potentially catastrophic national precedent). *They* taunted the opposition after the loss, promising in effect to resist and obstruct the ruling. And *they* were so shrill about it all, absolutely inviting the Congressional shellacking that followed. Maybe Tom Davis voted for the measure because it would in fact force the District into compliance with the Supreme Court. Never mind the "emergency" ass-saving legislation du jour. Once again: DC is a national laughing stock.

Posted by: Reality Check | September 17, 2008 6:18 PM

the DC council cannot get its act together, and refuses to abide by the Supreme Court ruling (which I did not agree with either, but hey - it's now law), then let Congress teach them that endless procrastination will not be tolerated. Acting in a manner to circumvent a legal ruling is wrong, whether it's Bush doing it, or the DC council doing it. And it is very clear that is precisely what the DC council was doing. They were trying to find a way to "allow" guns, but make it so difficult and cumbersome that nobody could get them legally. Why is it that DC moves at the speed of light when it comes to parking tickets and revenue, but suddenly goes into slow motion when it comes to implementing the Supreme Court decision? Ever hear about "all deliberate speed?"

Posted by: Gasmonkey | September 17, 2008 4:44 PM
_____________________________________

Says it all. Kudos.

Posted by: gbooksdc | September 17, 2008 6:25 PM

As a DC resident, let me say that, sometimes, DC's leaders need to get slapped up side the head. This is one of those times. Thank you Congress.

Posted by: Karl | September 17, 2008 6:26 PM

I concur wholeheartedly w/ Reality Check's post. Fenty and acting AG Nickles and the DC Council thumbed their nose in a very public way at the Supreme Court's Heller decision, and only started backpedaling when they looked toward the Capitol and saw the handwriting on the wall. They made no effort to actually comply with the ruling. I doubt Congress would have intervened if the District government had taken the ruling seriously and tried to put in place the sorts of reasonable restrictions Justice Scalia talked about in the Court's opinion while still complying with the Court's constitutional mandate. Instead, they made it clear they were going to set up a scheme that made gun ownership in DC a de facto impossibility. Fenty and Nickles are both lawyers and should be ashamed of themselves. They are reaping what they sowed.

Posted by: Cthseguy | September 17, 2008 6:33 PM

One thing is for sure: The Democrats are Not the party of Home Rule.

If this had been passed by a Republican House of Representatives, the Washington Post would have been on fire attacking the Congress.

The Democratic Speaker controls what legislation comes to the floor, what amendments may be considered, and what will have the opportunity to pass.

The Democratic leadership, Pelosi, Hoyer, Van Hollen, have proven that they are more concerned about their reelections than their principles (if they have any).

Why didn't Democratic Leaders including DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen and Majority Leader Hoyer stop this bill from coming to the floor? In the House, leadership controls everything. A repeal of the DC gun laws was never passed by a Republican House of Representatives.

Posted by: Speaker's Prerogative | September 17, 2008 9:39 PM

The Senate will not take up the bill. Though if they did it would be a beautiful thing to see how Biden, McCain and Obama would vote.

And to all of the "Guns are Icky" posters - We have a Constitution. Learn to love it. ALL OF IT.

As people will see on the front page of the WaPo on Thursday, Cops are being exonerated based on "Secret" grand jury testimony. Also, Chief Lanier was in charge of the "Roundup" of protestors at the Bush Inagurial and is the architect of the illegal Martial Law(esq) blockades/ID checks in DC neighborhoods.

These things should concerne DC residents much more than Congress forcing DC to follow the Constitution.

Home Rule has been a joke since Marion Barry. And still is for all the reasons listed above.

You want to keep home rule? Then elect competent officals.

Posted by: mds | September 17, 2008 10:07 PM

When I moved to DC I disheartedly left my guns with family in my homestate after looking at the crazy laws that basically reduced me to a criminal simply for possessing a gun in the District. As a DC citizen living on the Hill I applaud the Supremes and the House for championing my Constitutional rights. I look forward to bringing my rifles and shotguns home with me on my next trip, and can't wait until DC passes a concealed carry law for handguns so may wife and I can protect ourselves against all the armed criminals on the streets here.

Posted by: Ike to DC | September 17, 2008 10:42 PM

When I moved to DC I disheartedly left my guns with family in my homestate after looking at the crazy laws that basically reduced me to a criminal simply for possessing a gun in the District. As a DC citizen living on the Hill I applaud the Supremes and the House for championing my Constitutional rights. I look forward to bringing my rifles and shotguns home with me on my next trip, and can't wait until DC passes a concealed carry law for handguns so may wife and I can protect ourselves against all the armed criminals on the streets here.

Posted by: Ike to DC | September 17, 2008 10:42 PM

If you see armed criminals on the streets you don't live on the hill. Those people with guns are called police officers. I know in Idaho you probably hunt them but here in DC we tend to think they are good to have around.

Go back to Idaho Ike. Social environments aren't good for you.

Posted by: Southeasterner | September 18, 2008 2:12 PM

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