The D.C. Council will hold a special legislative meeting today to approve a resolution that will declare the council's opposition to an amendment attached to the District voting rights bill by Senate Republicans that would significantly loosen the city's gun laws.
The amendment would prohibit the District from enacting laws or regulations on firearms. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city's 32-year handgun ban in June.
Mendelson and the administration of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) immediately began working on new laws that set up registration requirements.
Those requirements would be thrown out, as well as the city's current regulations that prohibit possession and use of firearms by certain individuals, including the mentally ill committed voluntarily to a mental institution, those with a history of violent behavior, those convicted for domestic violence and those with multiple convictions for drunk driving.
"We want to make it clear that this amendment is unacceptable," said Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary.
All 13 council members have signed on to today's resolution, but there was division and hesitation about whether to reject the voting rights bill if the amendment remains attached. After years of lobbying, the District would get representation in the House but could lose its authority to govern firearms.
That is not addressed by today's resolution, but Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said it warranted discussion because the issue is on the minds of the public.
Evans said he attended a community meeting Monday night, and the crowd appeared to lean toward foregoing the voting rights bill if it means looser gun laws. "It scared me a little bit," Evans told council members at a breakfast meeting this morning.
"I have been wrestling with that," Mendelson said.
Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) said she also was struggling with the prospect. "To make us swallow this without objection...we're just lying down, just like always," she said. "What have we won?"
But Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) said the council cannot give up voting rights to fight the gun amendment, which could be attached to another bill in the future even if advocates manage to get it removed this time. "Do any of us like the symbolism of this? No," he said. "It's staggering, but I don't want us to fall for this trap, which has us opposing our own interests."
Catania said the council should support the voting rights bill, which could give Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) the authority to "work to repeal this" if it passes.