Federal bills would repeal DC gun laws
by Matthew Cella
Federal lawmakers Tuesday introduced bills into the House and Senate that would repeal most of the local gun laws in Washington, D.C.
The bills come less than a week after Democratic leaders withdrew landmark legislation that would have given the District a vote in the House of Representatives because of Republican plans to introduce an amendment similarly aimed at loosening city gun restrictions.
The bills introduced Tuesday would eliminate gun-registration requirements in the city and prevent the mayor and the D.C. Council from adopting laws prohibiting gun ownership.
It would also bar city officials from enacting laws that would prohibit guns from being carried in public places (whether concealed or openly brandished), that would diminish the authority of the city's police chief to deny concealed-carry licenses, or that would prohibit city leaders from preventing guns from being taken into city buildings.
"This looks exactly like the bill that was going to be attached to the [D.C. Voting Rights Act] last week," said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city's nonvoting representative. "It is this revised, over-the-top language that caused us to pull the DCVRA from the House floor schedule in the interest of protecting public safety, both in our neighborhoods and on federal property here."
Mrs. Norton, a Democrat, also said she had expected renewed assaults on the city's gun laws by National Rifle Association-backed members of Congress.
The legislation was introduced into the Senate by Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Jon Tester, Montana Democrat. In the House, the bill was sponsored by Reps. Travis Childers, Mississippi Democrat, and Mark Souder, Indiana Republican.
The bill cites the high rate of violence in the District, where a 2008 Supreme Court decision overturned a 30-year ban on handguns that was considered among the most stringent gun restrictions in the nation.
City officials began rewriting the laws immediately after the decision, and a District Court judge last month upheld local laws requiring gun registration and prohibiting assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices.
An NRA spokesman last week said the legislation was necessary because D.C. gun laws remain too restrictive.
D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said Tuesday he opposes the newly introduced bill, noting that the homicide rate in the District is at a 40-year low.
"Any provisions that would permit more guns in the District would be a major step backward for public safety in the nation's capital," he said.