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McCain, Tester, Childers, and Souder Introduce Bills To Reform D.C.’s Gun Laws

Friday, April 30, 2010

This week, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jon. Tester (D-Mont.), and Reps. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), introduced the “Second Amendment Enforcement Act.”  The Senate and House bills (S. 3265, with 14 Senate cosponsors and H.R. 5162, with 64 House co-sponsors, respectively) would eliminate several of the District’s most restrictive gun control laws passed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.

“We believe that residents across this country should be able to exercise their constitutional right to have access to firearms to protect themselves,” Sen. McCain said. Sen. Tester added, “This legislation sends a clear message: Washington, D.C., isn’t an exception when it comes to law-abiding folks and their Second Amendment rights.” Rep. Childers noted, “Today’s legislation seeks to secure for District residents the rights reinforced by the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller.”

Since the mid-1970s, D.C.’s gun control regimen has been similar to laws imposed in countries where—as Second Amendment author James Madison put it in The Federalist—“governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

The D.C. gun reform bills will move the District’s gun laws away from their European (and worse) model and closer to the mainstream laws that are in place in most of America. The bills would abolish the District’s deliberately difficult and costly firearm registration requirement, its restrictions on carrying a firearm for protection on private property, its post-Heller ban on hundreds of types of semi-automatic firearms denigrated as “assault weapons,” its ban on standard defensive magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, and its California-style “microstamping” law and handgun "roster" system.

Anticipating continuing efforts by the D.C. Council to suppress gun ownership by preventing dealers from conducting business in the District, the bills also provide for D.C. residents to legally buy handguns from FFLs in Maryland and Virginia, and they prescribe reasonable conditions for the lawful transportation of firearms within the District.

Furthermore, because the city’s elected officials have demonstrated hostility toward the Second Amendment—imposing its “microstamping” law, “assault weapon” ban, ban on magazines holding over 10 rounds, and “unsafe handgun” ban (which the city modified after the ban was challenged in court)—the Childers and McCain bills prohibit the city from enacting new laws designed to thwart the exercise of the right to arms.

NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox declared NRA’s support for the Childers-Souder and McCain-Tester bills, noting that NRA “remains committed to restoring the right to self-defense for law-abiding citizens in Washington, D.C., by whatever legal or legislative means necessary.”

Not everyone views the new legislation so favorably, however. In a press release, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) derided the “new and more dangerous National Rifle Association gun amendment” (sic) because it would allow the city to regulate, but not prohibit, the carrying of firearms. (In Heller, the Supreme Court recognized that the Second Amendment “guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”)

Norton repeatedly mischaracterized the potential effect of the bills. For example, she claimed that they would stop the city from prohibiting guns within schools that do not have metal detectors--ignoring the fact that the bill would retain the District's general ban on carrying firearms outside the home. The city’s mayor, Adrian M. Fenty (D), said that to “permit more guns in the District would be a major step backward for public safety,” but didn’t explain the basis for his prediction.  Nor did he explain how, to date, D.C.’s draconian gun laws have enhanced public safety in D.C.

We encourage all NRA members to contact their U.S. Senators and Representative and ask them to cosponsor this important legislation.  You can find contact information for your legislators by using the "Write Your Representatives" tool at www.NRAILA.org, or you can call your U.S. Senators at (202) 224-3121, and 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.