House, Senate Introduce Bills to Take Down D.C. Gun Laws

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Kirk Weddle

    A week after D.C. residents were denied representation in Congress in favor of saving its gun laws, senators and representatives on Tuesday announced similar bills to overturn those laws, too.

    The Second Amendment Enforcement Act would overturn D.C.'s ban on semiautomatic weapons, the city's requirement that guns be stored unloaded and disassembled, and the registration requirements, WTOP.com reported. The bill also would allow D.C. residents to buy guns and ammo in Maryland and Virginia.

    The bill retains D.C.'s laws banning fully automatic machine guns and regulating possession of firearms in D.C. government buildings.

    Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the Second Amendment Enforcement Act Tuesday.

    Many of the changes in the Tester/McCain bill are the same as amendments that were attached to the D.C. Voting Rights Bill. Those amendments were characterized as "egregious" by the District's non-voting Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and the reason she had the Voting Rights Bill pulled at the last minute.

    For a few days, Norton had decided to support a voting rights bill with a gun provision because of her concern voting rights wouldn't see the light of day next year if Democrats lose seats in upcoming elections. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said he believed the majority of residents wanted to push forward on voting rights and that gun rights advocates would try to weaken the District's gun laws even without a voting rights bill.

    But the House's proposed gun provision was much stronger than that which the Senate had passed, so Norton asked House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to remove voting rights from the floor schedule.

    The House version of the bill is sponsored by Democrat Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and Mark Souder (R-Ind.), the Associated Press reported. Norton said she will fight it.

    "It's a shame that this legislation is even necessary," said NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox. "This requires D.C. to respect the self-defense rights of law abiding citizens of the District."

    Fenty opposed the new bill, highlighting wording that suggests D.C.'s gun laws contribute to the city's high homicide rate.

    “The homicide rate in the District of Columbia is the lowest it has been in more than 40 years due to the hard work of the Metropolitan Police Department along with the assistance of community members all over the District," the mayor said. "Any provisions that would permit more guns in the District would be a major step backward for public safety in the nation's capital.”

    McCain and Tester argue D.C. failed to follow a Supreme Court directive to fully update firearms laws.

    "We believe that residents across this country should be able to exercise their constitutional right to have access to firearms to protect themselves,” McCain said. “I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this important legislation that will not only restore District residents’ rights but also ensure that no resident in any state, territory or the District is prevented from exercising his or her Second Amendment right.”

    Before the Supreme Court's ruling, the District had for 32 years banned handguns in the city and required that all firearms be kept disassembled or bound by a trigger lock. Now, instead, city law includes registration procedures and a ban on most semiautomatic weapons. A federal judge in D.C. recently ruled that the limitations were acceptable.