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One of the bigger surprises on the gun bill vote today is that Tom Davis, the Republican representing parts of suburban Virginia, voted for it. Davis has been a strong supporter of District home rule in recent years, helping D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton fight off various bigfooting attempts first as chair, and now as ranking member, of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
In 2004, according to a Post story, Davis stood up to an attempt by Indiana Republican Mark Souder to abolish the handgun ban. “No one should question the importance of keeping fully loaded assault weapons off the streets of the District,” Davis said. “There is an important place for debate on D.C. gun laws — that is in the chambers of the D.C. Council, not the Congress.”
As way of explaining Davis’ vote today, commenter KCinDC points us to the committee report. Some explanation: H.R. 6842 is the “National Capital Security and Safety Act,” which is the name of the substitute bill introduced by Norton; H.R. 6691 is the “‘Second Amendment Enforcement Act,” which is the stronger bill penned by Mississippi Democrat Travis Childers. What happened is that 6842 is what the committee sent to the floor, but Childers moved to amend by substituting his bill. So while the bill carries Norton’s name and number, the meat of the bill is Childers’.
Davis, to his credit, voted not to amend. (New Jersey Republican Mike Ferguson also voted against it before he voted for it.) Still, can anyone make sense of this?
This is an “Alice in Wonderland” moment for the Committee—-and it just gets “curiouser and curiouser.” We’ve been taken down a rabbit hole and through the looking glass by the Democratic Majority. This Cheshire Cat of a bill is about to disappear except for its grin. Take a quick look at H.R. 6842—-because it won’t be around for long!
We have asked repeatedly: why we are doing this now? The Republican Minority has been made a spectator in a convoluted drama with more characters than a Russian novel.
Neither “gun control” nor “home rule” is a defined term. Each may mean different things to different people at different times—-depending on the issue at hand and the underlying facts of a particular situation. But it does not appear we are going through this exercise because of either home rule or guns—-but rather to provide political cover to some Democrats who want to cast a certain vote on the House floor before the November elections.
I found the hearing on H.R. 6691—-the “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” which was introduced by 48 Democrats and 5 Republicans—-to be somewhat bizarre and, for the most part, unhelpful. Ostensibly, the purpose of the hearing was to gauge the impact of changing the District of Columbia’s gun laws. But we heard from only one District official who actually might be affected—-the Chief of Police.
Not one locally elected official was present to describe the process of amending and enforcing a constitutional gun law; not one constitutional expert was called to testify on the parameters of the Heller ruling and how it directs the District in formulating public safety policies; and not one advocate for the Second Amendment was asked to articulate how those rights should conform to increased community security. We did hear numerous tales of woe and implausible horror stories about loaded Uzis at the Inaugural Parade—-as if a potential terrorist or criminal would first register a weapon.
We also never heard from the Majority—which controls the agenda and called the hearing for a forum to decry H.R. 6691 as “threat”—-that H.R. 6691 was introduced by 48 Democrats (and 5 Republicans) some of whom sit on this Committee. And if the bill is such a threat to security, why is the House Democratic Leadership—-which controls the House floor agenda—-setting the stage for passage of the legislation?
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled the District of Columbia has been denying its residents protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights—-and no amount of hyperbole, hypotheticals, or political blind spots on the part of the Majority can get around this fact. Something must be done.
I continue to believe Delegate Norton’s basic approach has merit. But Republican members have become bit players in a blockbuster movie produced and directed by the Democratic majority. H.R. 6691 will come before the House no matter the action taken by this Committee.