The unrepresented people of D.C. have a new member of Congress who’s interested in running our local government: Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky introduced an amendment Tuesday that would repeal D.C.’s current semiautomatic handgun ban and gun registration requirements. The amendment was tacked on to the Senate’s bipartisan Sportsmen Act, which, in part, would ease hunting and fishing restrictions on federal lands.
In the proposed legislation, Paul provides a rather misleading rationale to defend gutting D.C.’s gun laws, writing that people in D.C. deserve greater access to guns because the city suffers from the highest per capita murder rate.
“The District of Columbia has the highest per capita murder rate in the Nation, which may be attributed in part to local laws prohibitting posession of firearms by law-abiding person who would others be able to defend themselves and their loved ones in their own homes and businesses.”
The problem: D.C. has the highest murder rate when compared to states, but not when compared to cities, which would be a much more apt comparison, since we’re, you know, a city.
According to 2012 data from the FBI, D.C. has the highest murder rate per capita when compared to states, with a rate of 13.9 murders for every 100,000 residents. But when compared to cities that year, D.C. ranked only eighth-worst among U.S. cities with a population of at least 500,000 people. (That’s bad, obviously, but it’s not as bad as Paul wants us to think it is.) Paul’s office didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.Non-voting D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton quickly issued a condemnation of Paul’s legislation today, saying “Senator Paul, the tea party standard-bearer, seems to leave his small government, libertarian views at the District line when it comes to the District of Columbia.”
“Based on his support for reducing the power of the federal government and devolving that power to states and local governments, including his visit to Howard University last year where he discussed the war on drugs, we had hoped he might be an ally in keeping Congress out of D.C.’s local affairs,” Norton wrote in a statement.
As Norton noted, Paul is credited with sinking legislation in 2012 that would have granted D.C. greater budget autonomy. Paul introduced amendments to the bipartisan bill that would have considerably eased gun laws in the city and banned federal funding for D.C. abortions.
The District’s strict gun laws have been challenged by Paul and others in the past, but a federal judge ruled in May that D.C.’s current laws are constitutional. Paul’s bill would also remove the criminal penalty for carrying a gun outside of one’s home.
The Senate has voted to move forward with voting on the Sportsmen Act, but a number of controversial amendments introduced, including Paul’s, could kill the whole thing, according to Politico.
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