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Senate Poised to Vote on D.C. Gun Ban Repeal

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The United States Senate is likely to vote this afternoon on an amendment by Senator John Ensign, R-Nev., that would repeal many of the District of Columbia's most extreme burdens on the Second Amendment rights of residents.

Since the Supreme Court struck down D.C.'s bans on handguns and on having guns in operable condition within the home in last year's Heller decision, the District passed a series of temporary "emergency" bills that failed to comply with the Court's ruling, followed by a permanent law (which will take effect in April) that imposes even more restrictions on D.C. gun owners.  (A temporary "emergency" law that mirrors the restrictive permanent law is currently in effect.)  In particular:

  • The new law enacts sweeping bans, borrowed wholesale from California, on hundreds of models of semi-automatic firearms, and on standard-capacity magazines widely owned for lawful self-defense purposes.
  • The new law also bans the sale of handguns deemed "unsafe" by California, based on California's legal standards.  Individuals would only be able to acquire handguns that are on the "California Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale."  This provision includes a "microstamping" mandate that would require use of unproven technology and would likely prevent sale of most new models of handguns in D.C. after January 1, 2011.
  • Though D.C. has always argued for its own sovereignty, these provisions give the legislature of California and the officials of the California Department of Justice all control over which handguns may be sold in the District.  D.C. gun owners would be at the whim of bureaucrats in Sacramento, who regularly change these rules to prohibit sales of more models of firearms.
  • Many of the guns that are prohibited under D.C.'s new law are both "in common use" throughout the United States and "typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes," which the Supreme Court in Heller suggested was the standard for constitutional protection.
  • The new law makes D.C.'s complicated, intrusive and expensive registration procedure even more complicated, to discourage people from attempting to register a handgun.  Among other provisions, it requires gun owners to report annually to the Metropolitan Police that they still own their guns.
  • The new limits include a limit of one handgun registration per 30 days, a provision that rations constitutional rights and that has failed to reduce crime in the few states that have enacted similar laws.


The Ensign Amendment is narrowly drawn to enforce the Supreme Court's Heller decision and prevent the District government from further burdening the Second Amendment rights of its residents.  The Ensign Amendment will:

  • Conform D.C. gun laws to the requirements set out by the Supreme Court. The D.C. Council had the opportunity to conform its laws to the ruling, but its new laws add major burdens on residents' Second Amendment rights.
  • Reform the District's firearm registration regime, which the District's new law makes even more complicated and intrusive. Firearm registration also has no crime-prevention benefit, as demonstrated by the fact that all, or nearly all, firearms used in violent crimes in D.C. are not registered.

Please call your U.S. Senator now and ask him to vote "Yes" on the Ensign Amendment!  The Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.

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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.