D.C. Gun Bill Passes by Wide Margin

Posted September 17, 2008 at 6:29pm

The House overwhelmingly passed a gun bill Wednesday that would upend many of the District of Columbia’s gun laws. But with Congress’ targeted adjournment date looming, the bill has little chance of being taken up by the Senate.

Moreover, even if it were to be considered, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) says she has been ensured that the bill would be blocked.

“I am very pleased that this bill will have multiple holds on it as it hits the Senate,” Norton said in a press release. “Many other efforts are underway by our friends in the Senate to assure that the bill dies.”

The House legislation, offered by freshman Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and strongly supported by the National Rifle Association, passed by a 266-152 vote.

It would permit relatively unrestricted gun regulations in Washington, including assault rifles such as AK 47s, and loosen many of the gun safety measures enacted in emergency legislation by the D.C. Council earlier this summer.

After the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling, which lifted the District’s 32-year-old handgun ban, the council passed emergency legislation that gun advocates claimed was still far too restrictive.

So Childers introduced his bill and quickly found bipartisan support, particularly from Democrats in gun-toting districts.

“I have no intention of directly circumventing the legislative practices of the D.C. City Council,” Childers said on the floor Tuesday night. “However, the Second Amendment right is a long-standing pillar in our system of government, and I believe law-abiding citizens should have the right to defend their homes in the District of Columbia, just like they have the ability to do so in the First Congressional District of Mississippi.”

Norton has repeatedly lambasted Democrats for supporting the bill, accusing Members of signing on to the legislation simply to get campaign funding from the NRA.

“They looked at the NRA label and signed onto this bill,” Norton said on the floor Wednesday. “Why? Because the NRA wanted to flex its muscles.”

Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the legislation, scoffed at the idea that Members supported the bill because of the NRA, saying the bill found support because Members believe in upholding the Second Amendment.

“Half the time we don’t even get funding from the NRA,” Baca said. “When you look at what we get, it’s just something we believe in. My brothers, my family have always been hunters.”

Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), who also co-sponsored the legislation, echoed these sentiments, saying that though the NRA does support the bill, he doesn’t make any decisions based on that.

Baca and Altmire received $2,000 each this year from gun-rights lobbying groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The House bill made it through a day after the D.C. Council also passed legislation that lifts many of the city’s restrictions put into place under its emergency legislation, including the ban on semiautomatic weapons. The new D.C. Council regulations also allow Washingtonians to keep handguns loaded and unlocked in their homes. The legislation was signed by the mayor and will take effect immediately.

“This new legislation is the second step in the process to do all that we can to minimize handgun violence in the District,” Mayor Adrian Fenty said in a press release. “These actions will continue to protect our citizens from gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment.”