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It took him two attempts, but this morning a Republican House member from Kentucky got what he wanted and successfully attached an amendment that would gut D.C.’s gun laws to a $21.3 billion spending bill.
Rep. Thomas 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. Local officials would only be allowed to enforce federal gun laws. The amendment was approved on a voice vote.
Last night, Massie tried to introduce a similar amendment, but it was rejected on the basis that it violated rules by changing existing law through a spending bill. Today, he revised the bill slightly to reflect that he was not trying to change D.C. law, but simply saying the city can not spend any of its money enforcing its gun laws, which would effectively void current law.
Here’s the wording of yesterday’s amendment:
None of the funds made available by this Act, including amounts made available under titles IV or VIII, may be used by any authority of the government of the District of Columbia to prohibit the ability of any person to possess, acquire, use, sell or transport a firearm except to the extent such activity is prohibited by Federal law.
Here’s today’s revised amendment:
None of the funds made available by this Act, including amounts made available under titles IV or VIII, may be used by any authority of the government of the District of Columbia to enforce any provision of the Firearms Registration Amendment Act of 2008 (D.C. Law 17-372), the Inoperable Pistol Amendment Act of 2008 (D.C. Law 17-388) the Firearms Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Law 19-170), or the Administrative Disposition for Weapons Offenses Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Law 19-295).
If the amendment ultimately becomes federal law, D.C.’s gun laws would actually be laxer than those in Kenton County, Ky., the largest jurisdiction Massie represents. In Kenton County, residents must apply to obtain a concealed-carry license. Federal law does not call for such licenses, and Jennifer Fuson, a spokesperson 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. The city doesn’t currently allow for concealed-carry permits, but under this amendment, the Brady Campaign doesn’t think there would be a concealed-carry registry here. (So if Massie really wants to find some local gun laws to overturn, perhaps he could start back home?)
Massie provided the same rationale today as he did last night for the amendment: He thinks D.C.’s strict gun laws are onerous and amount to the harassment of law-abiding citizens.
“Why would the D.C. government want to punish and harass law-abiding citizens who simply want to defend themselves from criminals?” he asked. “Does anyone actually believe that strict gun control laws will prevent criminals from getting guns?”
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke on the House floor, saying Massie is not accountable to voters in the District, but is still introducing an amendment that would “effectively wipe out all of D.C.’s gone safety laws now and in the future.”
“Even if one were to agree with him, it is an entirely inappropriate amendment to an appropriations bill,” she said. “This amendment is being offered by a member who claims at every turn to support the principal of local control, of local affairs, yet he is using the big foot of the federal government to overturn local laws.”
The appropriations bill also contains other amendments that would prohibit D.C. from spending any money on abortions or its marijuana decriminalization law (which is set to take effect tonight). The White House, however, already threatened to veto the House version of the bill, in part because it contains amendments interfering with D.C. laws.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0