Norton Gun Bill Passes Out Of Oversight Committee

Posted September 10, 2008 at 6:40pm

In a victory for the District of Columbia, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted out a bill Wednesday that will give the D.C. Council the right to regulate guns in the District.

“I think the bill is the right approach given the situation, the situation being that many Members in the House feel that they have to make a statement,” D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D) said. “The bill is within the parameters that everybody is discussing.”

In a 17-1 vote, with Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) defecting, the committee approved D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s (D) bill, which gives the council the opportunity to create gun legislation, a right that a previously introduced bill is trying to strip away.

The Second Amendment Enforcement Act (H.R. 6691), introduced by freshman Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and supported by the National Rifle Association, aims to loosen many of the provisions put into place by emergency legislation enacted by the D.C. Council in July.

The bill, which is strongly opposed by Norton, has four main components: repealing the semiautomatic ban, allowing citizens to keep guns assembled and ready for use in the home, easing registration restrictions and allowing D.C. residents to buy guns in Maryland and Virginia.

“Mr. Childers’ bill is so lethal that I believe that if this bill were to get through the House and Senate, even this president, this pro-gun president, would have to veto it,” Norton said at the markup.

The Norton bill is expected to be taken up on the floor as early as next week. Sources say that House leadership has promised those who support the Childers bill a chance to bring it up separately on the floor.

Norton said she was surprised by the vote margin, adding that after a contentious hearing held Tuesday on the legislation she thought the bill might pass by as little as one vote. At the hearing, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier spoke out against the bill, saying it would put many federal agents and foreign dignitaries at risk. Despite her sentiments, Republicans still seemed adamant about passing the Childers bill.

“When I walked out of here yesterday I didn’t have any hope for today’s outcome,” Norton said. Now, “I’m not at all hopeless.”

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), who seemed to oppose the Norton legislation at Tuesday’s hearing, praised the delegate and her bill at the markup, offering the sole amendment.

“It’s always going to be a balancing act. Del. Norton is great at being an advocate for the District and I want to be somebody who balances that from the other end of the country,” Issa said. “My change endeavored to say ‘Look, in 180 days give us back a conforming law’ because the case was made in the hearing that to be without good legislation would be a mistake.”

Ranking member Tom Davis (Va.) was quick to recognize that it was going to take a lot more than a committee vote to make the bill law. He said, “I feel like I’m an extra in a movie because what happens here is not really what happens. It’s what happens on the floor next week.”