DC VOTING RIGHTS AT GUNPOINT?

Last year, the Supreme Court decided that the District of Columbia's ban on handgun ownership violated the Second Amendment. In response, the District's City Council passed new handgun control legislation, increasing the gun registration fee and requiring those seeking licenses to undergo a background check, receive training, and submit their weapons to ballistics tests.

Now, the National Rifle Association is retaliating. Dissatisfied with the high court's edict, the NRA wants to hijack the popular DC Voting Rights Act by adding a provision to overturn the Council's legislation. The Senate passed the amendment on a 62-36 vote, and it is heading for a showdown in the House that threatens to derail the District's best chance in recent memory of gaining representation. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the bill's primary sponsor, would rather the measure fail than pass with Nevada republican John Ensign's amendment attached. "There's no choice between a vote for American citizens and a completely unrelated and reckless gun bill, that is a non-choice," she told NPR. Yet the all-too-powerful NRA says it will count Representatives who support a procedural move to block all amendments to the bill as "voting against gun rights."

No hunting takes place in Washington, and the city is dominated by federal buildings and embassies that prohibit the carrying of firearms. Yet it still suffers from high -- if falling -- rates of gun crime. The city's elected leaders wisely crafted measures to keep a check on the gun market while complying with the Supreme Court decision. But despite reports last year that its political clout was diminishing, the reactionary NRA still holds such undeserved sway in Members' districts that it seems that no sensible measure to protect the public from the threat of gun violence can make it through Congress.

--Malcolm Kenton

Advertisement