One of Congress' most outspoken libertarians is the latest member to try to overturn the District of Columbia's local gun laws. If successful, his proposal would make the District, home to cabinet officials, dignitaries from around the world and the president perhaps the most permissive gun jurisdiction in the country.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who in June rallied a bipartisan majority around an amendment to end warrantless collection of Americans' online activities, attached language prohibiting D.C. from enforcing local firearm restrictions to the House bill funding the District .
"Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller that struck down the D.C. handgun ban, as well as the unconstitutional gunlock provision, it is still difficult for D.C. residents to exercise their God-given right to bear arms," Massie said Wednesday on the floor. "Congress has the authority to legislate in this area pursuant to article I, section 8, clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to 'exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever' over the District of Columbia."
In a move decried as an assault on Home Rule, Massie tried to wield that authority Tuesday night with a similar amendment, but the measure was ruled out of order due to a procedural flaw. To the outrage of Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. Council, he tried again on Wednesday and the House adopted the gun rider 241-181, with the support of 20 Democrats. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., had claimed victory in the first round, saying the freshman lawmaker was not ready for primetime. But when Massie tried again, she told CQ Roll Call that she knew the measure would pass the Republican House and she would need to start rallying her allies in the Senate. Despite the forecasted defeat, she delivered a fiery tirade against the measure, which would effectively wipe out all of the District's gun safety laws.
"This amendment is being offered by a member who claims, at every turn, to support the principle of local control or local affairs, yet he is using the big foot of the federal government to overturn local laws," she said. "Turning to the amendment itself, if this amendment passes, every gun law in this big city — which shares the same gun violence issues with other big cities and is also the nation's capital — would be gone.
"The D.C. government would not be able to stop a person from carrying, openly or concealed, an assault weapon, including a .50-caliber sniper rifle with a magazine holding an unlimited number of bullets on any street and in any building except, of course, Federal buildings, like the one where we now stand," Norton said.
"You want to buy a gun in a private transaction without undergoing a background check? The D.C. government couldn't stop you if this bill passed," she continued. "Angry? Want to buy a gun right now with no waiting period? The D.C. government couldn't stop you."
Massie characterized provisions of the District's gun laws as "invasive," and asked why the city government would "want to punish and harass law-abiding citizens who simply want to defend themselves."
"Does anyone actually believe that strict gun controls laws will prevent criminals from getting guns?" he asked. His opponents, including Norton, Gray, an assistant chief of the Metropolitan Police Department and representatives from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence likely do, and Norton has invited them to Capitol Hill to speak this morning at an 11:30 press conference about the danger the amendment poses.