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The Post reports today that a federal appeals court has backed several of the District’s gun laws which came into question after the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision. This is the second time the District’s gun laws have been deemed appropriate under the Supreme Court decision.
A three-judge panel ruled in a 2-to-1 decision that gun registration and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are acceptable and constitutional. Mayor Vince Gray said it “upholds our government’s authority to pass reasonable gun laws.”
Last year, Byron Tau explored the relationship between gun laws and congressional representation for the District:
Unlike previous proposals to fix the capital’s orphaned political status, this one required nothing more than passing a bill and getting the president to sign it. And just two days earlier, Congressional leaders had decided to do just that. They’d agreed to bring to the floor the long-dormant D.C. Voting Rights Act, a measure that would immediately invalidate the “Taxation Without Representation” slogan on D.C. license plates.
The catch? The bill would also disembowel the District’s gun laws.
For more than a year, nonvoting D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton had tried to delete the armament provisions. Congress’ pro-gun contingent, backed by the ever-influential National Rifle Association, was adamant about overturning the city’s gun restrictions as a condition of giving Washington a voting member of Congress.
The impending vote meant advocates were finally, publicly admitting that there was no way to separate the gun issue from the voting rights issue. Zherka and other supporters had made an unhappy peace with that reality —or so he thought.
The one factor that hadn’t been on their side was time. Democrats were poised to lose seats in the November elections. The delicate bipartisan compromise that would have given GOP-dominated Utah an extra seat to counterbalance heavily Democratic D.C.’s new vote was about to unwind: The 2010 census would likely give Utah another seat no matter what happened to D.C.
“I believed we could get our gun laws back, but we could never get Utah back,” says Norton. “It really was a now or never proposition.” The message she was getting from talking to the city government, to her constituents, and to the coalition of voting rights advocates, she says, was: “‘Don’t lose the only chance we have.’”