By Angela Canterbury
Last Thursday, the Senate finally approved at least one vote in Congress for the long-disenfranchised citizens of the nation’s capital. That was the hand that giveth . . .
The other hand promptly took away the commonsense gun control laws put into place by the locally elected government of Washington, D.C.
Senator John Ensign (R-NV) offered an amendment to the D.C. House Voting Rights Act (61-37) that – should become law – could make D.C. one of the most free-wheeling,-gun-toting places in the country. It passed by 62-36. That’s right – more guns got one vote more than democracy.
First of all, what business does Congress have removing safeguards on selling and possessing firearms that meet the standards set by the highest court? The D.C. Council recently amended its local gun laws to comply with a Supreme Court ruling. There is no sound reason for Congress to use extraordinary powers to pre-empt the democratic will of the people of D.C. – especially to make the city less safe.
This gun measure is more than symbolism or politics: It’s about public safety. Specifically, the gun amendment would undermine federal anti-trafficking laws, repeal D.C.’s ban on military-style weapons, allow teenagers to possess semiautomatic assault rifles, and prohibit D.C. from passing laws that could “discourage” gun possession or use, by anyone – even children or felons.
And exactly what do gun laws have to do with the right to vote? House leadership should not consider this or any other non-germane proposal with this civil and voting rights bill. This is about righting a historic wrong and bringing democracy to the so-called capital of the free world.
It seems some in Congress think it is within their power to rule over the more than half a million people who live in the District of Columbia, even if those people have no democratic representation in Congress. This has got to change. It’s time to tell members of the House that We the People are more powerful than the gun lobby that is pushing to have its interests imposed upon District residents.
The House likely will vote on the bill on Wednesday, March 4. Hopefully, lawmakers will walk our nation’s democratic talk and do right by the people of D.C. by restoring their voting representation in the House AND rejecting any attempts to undermine their local democratic government. If they succeed, members of the House will then need to negotiate with the Senate for the removal of the dangerous and unnecessary gun amendment. President Obama should not have to consider whether to sign a divisive gun measure into law at the same time he acts to return voting rights to the citizens of the District.
If you live outside of Washington, D.C., please feel enfranchised to give your rep. a nudge to take a stand for more democracy now. District residents can thank their non-voting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, for tirelessly fighting for their rights.