DC Gun Bill Aimed at Law-Abiding Citizens, Supporters Say

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The District of Columbia, a city with some of the nation's toughest gun laws, also has a high rate of gun crime, and on Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives took a controversial stand on the issue.

By a 250-171 vote, the House voted to overturn D.C.'s gun ban, a vote celebrated by Second Amendment supporters and condemned by city leaders and gun control advocates.

"We're delighted that a strong, bipartisan House majority voted in favor of the District of Columbia Personal Protection Act," said Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA).

Gottlieb said the Senate should quickly pass the measure as well, but with only a few days left to act, the prospects for that happening are doubtful.

"Residents of Washington, D.C., should have as much right to defend themselves and their families as people who live in Arlington, Virginia; Billings, Montana; or Portland, Oregon," said CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron.

"Criminals know they have a risk-free environment in the District, because only the law-abiding have been effectively disarmed.

CCRKBA notes that guns were banned in the District in 1976; and since then, crime rates have skyrocketed. "There's a message in that," Waldron said.

According to CCRKBA, crime data shows that violent crime rates decline in communities where gun ownership is widespread and citizens are licensed to carry.

'Political grandstanding'

On the other side of the argument, Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s non-voting delegate to Congress, said the House bill will pave the way for "assault rifles" and "cop-killer bullets" to fall into the hands of children.

And the liberal-leaning Children's Defense Fund expressed outrage that the House of Representatives would pass a bill repealing "gun safety" laws in Washington -- "even as children continue dying from gunfire on the city's streets."

"Our nation's capital has seen 21 children killed by gun violence this year, yet the House would endanger even more children with this action," said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund.

She called the bill a "wanton display of political grandstanding that is nothing more than an election season sop to the National Rifle Association." Edelman accused the NRA of wanting to dump more guns on the already violent streets of D.C.

But the National Rifle Association says it supports law-abiding citizens' right of self-defense in a crime-ridden city.

"D.C.'s politicians have stripped law-abiding residents of their ability to defend themselves and their families," said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox in a message on the NRA website. "Passage of the 'District of Columbia Personal Protection Act' will remedy this senseless and dangerous injustice."

The bill, introduced by Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) and Mike Ross (D-Ark.), would allow law-abiding citizens to own firearms in the District and it would repeal gun registration requirements.

"The homes of this city will be safer when its law-abiding citizens are on an equal footing with its violent criminals," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in a statement expressing support for the legislation.

Delay noted that the District of Columbia has been dubbed the "murder capital of the nation" in 2002 -- the 14th time in 15 years it has earned such a dubious distinction.

The District of Columbia Personal Protection Act allows law- abiding citizens of the district to own rifles, shotguns, and handguns, without the current registration requirements.

Delay emphasized that the legislation does not affect any law directed at criminal conduct and it leaves in place strict penalties for gun possession by criminals and for violent crime committed with guns.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.