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D.C. Gun Ban Reform Gets Hearing And Vote

Friday, July 1, 2005

In an important step toward reforming Washington, D.C.'s draconian gun laws, pro-Second Amendment Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) succeeded in attaching an amendment to the D.C. appropriations bill (by a vote of 259-161) that would restore the self-defense rights of legal gun owners in the District.  D.C. citizens have been disarmed for nearly 30 years, while their city has earned dubious distinction as the nation's murder capital.
 
The Souder Amendment prohibits funds from being used "to enforce section 702 of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 (sec. 7-2507.02, D.C. Official Code)."  That section requires that every registered gun owner (a small number of rifle and shotgun owners, and an even smaller number who fall under a "grandfather clause" because they owned registered handguns before the enactment of the ban) "shall keep any firearm in his possession unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock or similar device unless such firearm is kept at his place of business, or while being used for lawful recreational purposes within the District of Columbia."  There is no exception for self-defense.

The District of Columbia is the only place in the U.S. that prohibits keeping firearms available at home, for defense against criminal attack.  Right now, a law-abiding citizen who legally owns a shotgun, a rifle, or a handgun (assuming the handgun was registered in D.C. before 1976), is forbidden from using the gun in defense of his or her home and family, even though, ironically, the same person could use a gun to defend a business.  And needless to say, D.C.'s criminals ignore the storage rules.

Passage of the Souder Amendment followed a June 28  House Government Reform Committee hearing on Washington, D.C.'s gun laws.  Among the topics were NRA's efforts to repeal the egregious D.C. gun ban (bills have been filed to this effect—H.R. 1288 in the House and S. 1082 in the Senate).  This legislation seeks to restore the constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment rights of the residents of the District of Columbia.
 
Among those testifying against repealing the D.C. ban were D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D) and Police Chief Charles Ramsey. 

Astonishingly, Mayor Williams referred to legislation to restore the constitutional rights of those he governs as "a slap in the face to me and to the people who live in this city."  It is quite telling, not to mention insulting, when an elected official, who works for those who elect him, doesn't trust them enough to support their choice to legally own a firearm for self-defense, especially when residing in such a dangerous city.

In confronting U.S. Representative Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who is a staunch supporter of efforts to repeal the ban, Chief Ramsey asked, "I don't know how many folks you've confronted sir, in reality at night with a gun on them who were intent of doing harm, but my people have to do it every single day."  An interesting notion, considering that, since D.C. has a gun ban, it should be impossible for anyone to confront a gun-wielding criminal!  Of course, in Ramsey's Washington, the only people who have guns are criminals.  The chief's suggestion that maintaining the D.C. ban would diminish such encounters is ludicrous, as the ban has been counterproductive since its inception in 1976.

The key issue was summarized well by D.C. resident Sandra Seegars, a community activist and local official who is suing to overturn the ban.  As Seegars said, "It's time to face reality.  The District's handgun ban is not working.... The ban has allowed thugs more reason to prey on law-abiding citizens, because they aren't armed."
 
The success of the Souder Amendment—and the broad cosponsorship of the reform bills—just go to show the importance of grassroots activism.  The Souder Amendment showed a net increase of 13 votes compared to last September's House vote on a broader reform of D.C.'s gun laws.  Much of that positive change came from new House members who were elected with the strong endorsement of the NRA and the active involvement of NRA-ILA grassroots volunteers.

Please continue to contact your U.S. Representative and Senators and ask them to cosponsor and support H.R. 1288 and S. 1082.  For a list of Senate cosponsors, please visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SN01082:@@@P.  For a list of House cosponsors, please visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:HR01288:@@@P.

You can call your U.S. Senators at (202) 224-3121, or your U.S. Representative at (202) 225-3121.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.