House Takes a Jab at D.C. Gun Control Laws

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Conservative lawmakers are again taking a jab at the District’s gun control laws, despite a recent federal court ruling upholding the restrictions.

On Thursday, the House approved a nonbinding measure calling for active-duty military personnel to be exempt from D.C. gun laws, which are some of the strictest in the nation. The resolution expressing a sense of Congress, offered by Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, passed by voice vote.

Despite the fact that the measure has no legal effect, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton was riled.

She framed the proposal, which also passed the House in 2012 and 2013, as an "attack" on gun safety  and vowed to work with Senate allies to get the amendment removed from the final version of the bill, with the help of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The advocacy group has already promised to defend the District against attempts to dismantle its gun laws.

“In this country, we respect local jurisdictions, particularly on questions of public safety," Norton said in a release. "What ever happened to Phil Gingrey’s tea party principles of local control of local affairs? Meddling in a district more than 600 miles from his own takes him just that far from those principles.”

Gingrey acknowledged in an interview that the act is about sending a message. The lawmaker indicated he had no plans to move forward with a bill he introduced earlier this Congress that would make the exemption for military personnel enforceable, though he "would love to have them consider [the bill] later."

By his count, there are about 40,000 military personnel around the D.C. area who would be affected. Those servicemen and women are "expert in regard to firearms and safety and accuracy and marksmanship," Gingrey said. Arming them would effectively give the Metropolitan Police Department — a force he says is probably "undermanned" — an extra "40,000 deputies to help them cut down on capital crime in the District of Columbia."

Gingrey said shootings in Fort Hood, Texas, have raised the profile of the issue of arming military personnel.

“I'm a little bit surprised that the District of Columbia doesn't say, 'Hey, this is great and welcome,'" he said.

Last week, District Judge James E. Boasberg upheld the District’s firearm registration requirements as consistent with the Second Amendment, in a follow up case to the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that struck down D.C.’s ban on handgun possession.

The court approved of D.C.'s one-gun-a-month registration limit and regular registration renewal.  The ruling also upheld requirements that firearms registrants appear in person with the weapon to be registered, and submit to fingerprints and photographs, plus firearms-safety, training and knowledge requirements.  

"Honestly, I don't specifically know their gun laws," Gringrey said, when asked if he was trying to overturn the policies affirmed by the court ruling.  

Gingrey said the Supreme Court acknowledged an individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, but D.C. laws make it almost impossible for an individual to have a handgun in his or her own home to protect themselves and their family. He said he feels "very strongly that this is really a good thing."