Saturday, September 20, 2008

House Ignores Law Enforcement, Caves To The NRA And Guts DC Gun Control

With dismay, I've been following the NRA and its supporters' progress in recklessly loosening gun control in Washington, D.C. Not content with the 5-4 Supreme Court decision that struck down the ban on keeping handguns in the home, the gun lobby is pursuing a law that, according to city and federal officials, will make it harder to protect federal workers, residents and the president ("House Panel Hears Testimony on Bill to Ease Gun Laws in Capital," New York Times, 9/9/08).

This radical law "would repeal the local ban on semiautomatic pistols and rifles, and eliminate the gun-registration requirements. It would also allow city residents to buy guns in Virginia and Maryland."

As always, law enforcement officials are left to worry about the consequences of such ill-considered laws, not the gun zealots. Cathy Lanier, chief of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, said that the law would make the city more dangerous for its residents and those who work there. 

At a hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, she said, “Imagine how difficult it will be for law enforcement to safeguard the public, not to mention the president at the inaugural parade. In attempted and successful assassinations around the world, the first step in attacking a motorcade is frequently to take out the security detail with semiautomatic and automatic firearms.”

Karen Lightfoot, oversight committee spokeswoman, stated that law enforcement officials testified that the bill would legalize carrying loaded semi-automatic rifles.

But why listen to law enforcement? What do those pacifists know about keeping the city safe?

On the same day, the Times also published an editorial, "Meaner Streets in Washington," which stated:

Congress is considering a reckless piece of legislation that would eviscerate gun controls in the District of Columbia, ignoring the democratic rights of the residents of the nation’s capital and making it harder for the police to protect streets traveled by ordinary people, lawmakers, judges, diplomats and dignitaries.

...This extreme bill goes way beyond what the high court required. Among other things, it would repeal a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and eliminate firearm registration requirements, even for such things as sniper rifles and small, easily concealed semiautomatic handguns. Under the lunatic logic of this bill, made to order for the gun lobby, such rifles could be toted around on the street fully loaded.

The video above, "Gun Crazy," by Mark Fiore, warns about the consequences of not requiring firearms registration.

In its latest editorial, "Gun Lobby First" (9/18/08), the Times delivers the unfortunate news: "The House stampeded past serious public safety concerns and the democratic rights of residents of the District of Columbia on Wednesday to approve a bill that would gut sensible gun controls in the nation’s capital."

Eighty-five Democrats from communities opposed to gun control joined almost all Republicans in kow-towing to the gun lobby despite the opposition of the Police Department. It's not hard to see why the police are opposed; the bill is an enemy to law enforcement and community safety:

In response to the court, the district has lifted its ban on semiautomatic guns. The House bill goes a reckless step further to allow large-capacity ammunition clips that give those weapons extraordinary firepower. It also would end the district’s gun registration system, which aids the police in tracking down violent criminals. Other provisions would remove age restrictions on possessing rifles and shotguns and carve an exception to federal anti-trafficking laws by allowing district residents to cross state lines to purchase handguns in neighboring Maryland and Virginia.

...It tramples on the district’s right to govern itself and makes it harder for the police to protect streets traveled by local residents, government officials, diplomats and dignitaries. Voters also should remember this vote when their elected representatives piously declare their devotion to curbing the influence of rich lobbyists.

California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein vowed to block the bill in the Senate. May her efforts on behalf of both those who safeguard the city and its citizens succeed.

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