WASHINGTON – The District of Columbia can’t limit the guns its residents buy and own, including semiautomatic weapons, the House voted Wednesday.
Legislation pushed by Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, was adopted 266-152 with 85 Democrats joining 181 Republicans in voting “yes.”
The bill, which the Senate is not likely to act on this year, would repeal the D.C.’s semiautomatic handgun ban and overturn a city law requiring that firearms kept in the home be locked and inoperable. It would allow residents to buy guns from licensed dealers in Maryland and Virginia and repeal some registration requirements.
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote in June, ruled that the city’s 32-year-old ban on handgun possession violates the Second Amendment. The District of Columbia City Council then adopted a temporary measure to allow possession of unloaded weapons in homes but kept the ban on semiautomatics.
On Tuesday, the council voted to allow residents to own most semiautomatic pistols and removed the requirement that weapons be stored unloaded and disassembled or secured with trigger locks.
But advocates of the House bill said that isn’t enough.
“This Congress has lost faith in the willingness of the District of Columbia to defend the Second Amendment,” Souder said.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting representative of the District of Columbia, said Congress would not take this action toward any other U.S. city.
“The House has the gall to ask for a vote to nullify the gun laws in my district, depriving my district of the right to protect itself and visitors like yourselves while denying me a vote on this floor on passage. Have you no shame?” she said.
Souder countered that “the Supreme Court argued that American citizens have a pre-existing right to defend themselves, and no city or state has the right to take that away.”
Besides, he said, “Washington, D.C., has been the murder capital of the United States 15 of the last 19 years, and the other four they were in the top three. Let’s don’t act like what we are doing is making it dangerous in this city.”
Three Hoosier Democrats – freshmen Reps. Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill – were among the “yes” votes, as were the state’s two other Republicans.
The National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist praised the House vote and urged Senate action, saying, “The American people should know where their elected representatives stand on this critical civil rights legislation before the November elections.”
Paul Helmke, former Fort Wayne mayor who now heads the nation’s largest gun-control organization, said the bill “will endanger public safety in a city that is already a target for terrorists.”
Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said it “will allow dangerous people to stockpile dangerous weapons, and it will make it harder for the people of D.C. to combat gun violence in their community.”