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Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky figures Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will likely block the amendment he tacked onto an appropriations bill to decimate D.C.’s gun laws once it gets out of the House. But Massie opted to introduce it anyway. After all, he says, his constituents elected him as a pro-Second Amendment candidate, and he needs to show them where he stands.
“This was an opportunity to have a vote,” he told a handful of reporters in his office in the Cannon House Office Building, right after D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Vince Gray denounced the amendment in a press conference downstairs.
Massie, who conceded he isn’t the most popular person in Congress, says it’s a “shame” that D.C. home rule had to get caught up in this and, if he had his choice, he would have simply introduced a broader amendment about the right to bear arms.
As it stands, Massie’s amendment to the financial services and general government appropriations bill states that the District government is prohibited from spending any of its money on enforcing its own gun laws.
At the press conference today, Norton said, technically speaking, it was inappropriate for Massie to try to overturn D.C.’s laws through the appropriations process and, if he wants to gut the law, he should introduce a bill on the House floor explicitly doing so. (By going through the appropriations process, the gun laws would still be on the books, but the D.C. government wouldn’t be able to use any of its money to enforce them.)
Even if it doesn’t get passed, Norton said the mere fact that the House allowed it to be added onto the appropriations bill “could not be more dangerous for the District of Columbia.”
“It’s the whole world against the District of Columbia,” she later said.
Gray had similar thoughts.
“We are not a toy,” he said. “We are not a pawn. And we deserve to be treated like Americans.”
Massie says he isn’t against everything that Norton champions, but he thinks everyone, including the people in the District of Columbia, have the right to bear arms. (He says he opposes Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland’s amendment to block D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law through the appropriations process.)
In 2013, Massie introduced legislation that would have repealed the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990—so it would have allowed guns in schools. That bill never made it out of committee.
If Massie’s amendment does pass, D.C.’s gun laws would actually be laxer in some ways than those in Kenton County, Ky., the largest jurisdiction Massie represents. Kenton, for instance, requires residents to apply to obtain a concealed-carry license. Federal law does not call for such licenses, and Jennifer Fuson, a spokeswoman for the Brady Campaign to End Violence, says the organization believes that if the law is passed, people would be able to carry concealed weapons around D.C. without a permit. (She adds that the Brady Campaign believes there could be some sort of gun registration, thought no application process to carry a concealed weapon.)
Once Massie’s done writing D.C.’s local laws, he’s got some suggestions for his own constituents, too: “I would highly recommend lowering the threshold to get a concealed carry permit,” he says.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0