What to Know
- With Republicans running the White House, Senate and House, the District is far more vulnerable to intrusive legislation.
- In the next Congress, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio intends to introduce legislation that will wipe out the District's gun laws.
Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.
A guy walks into cute Comet Ping Pong brandishing a rifle Sunday afternoon, on a deranged mission to "self-investigate" a ludicrous conspiracy theory that has Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of the pizza restaurant's non-existent basement. Police arrest him with three weapons.
Hopefully the nut jobs peddling the insidious Comet fantasy will slither away to another bizarre, imagined caper. But we might have to get used to people packing heat in our neighborhoods.
In the next Congress, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio intends to introduce legislation that will wipe out the District's gun laws. He's likely to be joined by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who coauthored the legislation last Congress.
The Rubio-Jordan bill failed in 2015. Even if it had passed the House and Senate, it's quite likely President Obama would have vetoed it. But that was then.
With Republicans running the White House, Senate and House, the District is far more vulnerable to intrusive legislation -- from stripping the District's gun laws to reversing marijuana decriminalization.
"For lack of a better word," said Bo Shuff with DC Vote, "we are in a defensive position when we talk about autonomy for D.C."
Before the November elections, Shuff and other advocates for statehood and full voting rights were duped into false hope that Hillary Clinton would be in the White House, and Democrats might even control the Senate.
"It's a far more antagonistic Congress," Shuff said. "We are hoping our gains don't get rolled back or whittled away."
Shuff fears members of Congress might seek to roll back the District's budget autonomy. In 2013, District voters passed a referendum to allow the D.C. government to allocate and spend locally collected tax dollars, without the 30-day congressional review. Courts have upheld the law, and Congress has taken no action.
"For all intents and purposes," Shuff said, "it's gone into effect."
The House voted last May to gut the law, but it fizzled in the Senate. President Obama might have vetoed the bill had it reached his desk. Now there's less of a backstop in the Senate. Nobody knows how President-Elect Trump might react, not even Trump, at this point.
But it's quite likely our new neighbor at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. will have to decide whether to sign Rubio's legislation to kill D.C.'s existing gun laws and the government's right to make and enforce new ones.
For decades, the District had perhaps the nation's most strict handgun controls until 2008, when the Supreme Court struck down the ban. Since then the District has crafted reasonable regulations that allow residents to own guns but also requires training and safety measures.
The law seems to be working well. The Metropolitan Police Department reports that it has registered 8,634 firearms. Of those, 5,617 are handguns. So far the District has issued 94 licenses for residents to carry concealed weapons; it has denied 374 applications to carry concealed weapons.
The Rubio/Jackson bill would wipe out the laws and disable the registration system.
When the Florida senator introduced his Second Amendment Enforcement Act last year, he said: "For years, the District of Columbia has infringed on its residents second amendment rights and rendered them vulnerable to criminals who could care less what the guns laws are."
That's a bunch of bunk. Rubio has no idea what D.C. residents want or need. Besides, since 2008 the path to owning a gun has been unobstructed.
Rubio's law has the potential to attract a parade of tourists with Glock semi-automatic pistols strapped to their waists. It would make it easier to get permits to carry concealed weapons, allow District residents to buy weapons in Maryland and Virginia, and anyone could walk the streets of D.C. carrying a weapon licensed in another state.
There's nothing particularly innovative or inspired about the Rubio/Jackson bill. They follow a long line of representatives and senators who have taken out their pet projects on the District or tried to score political points back home by foisting ideologically pure laws on D.C.
What troubles me is the vicious political climate that's been building, combined with the conservative Republican hold on the House and Senate.
As a member of the National Rifle Association and the proud owner of a Ruger carbine, I believe unrestricted gun ownership in the nation's capital would be a disaster. There are bound to be protests in our streets in the coming months. They will attract advocates on the opposite sides of volatile issues such as abortion, climate change and immigration. Why add firearms to the mix?
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton asked a more intriguing question for the incoming president: "Why would President Trump want people with guns walking into the Trump International Hotel?"
Before he ran for president, Trump built a new luxury hotel a few blocks down the street on Pennsylvania Avenue in the historic Old Post Office. The Trump International is now the unofficial flagship for his company's hotel division.
"How does that help him?" Norton asked of unrestricted gun ownership in his new neighborhood. "That doesn't help the hotel at all.
"If you really want D.C. to become a dangerous city then eliminate all of our gun laws. I can't imagine what it would turn this city into."
Norton is hoping Trump and his daughter Ivanka, who negotiated the hotel deal, are sharing the same thoughts. She hopes money talks, and Trump will brush aside congressional attempts to gut D.C. guns laws because it would be bad for business.
That's a long shot, but here's the irony: Trump might have helped spawn the crazy conspiracy theories that prompted a 28-year-old man from North Carolina to shoot up a pizzeria on upper Connecticut Avenue. But he also might be the only one who can preserve the gun laws that can keep purveyors of those crazy theories from legally carrying guns on our streets.
That would be sensible for his high-end hotel and our peace of mind.