The House Judiciary Committee easily beat back a move Thursday to allow people with concealed-weapon permits from other states to carry guns in the District.
The panel is considering a bill that would let people with concealed-carry permits to use them in other states that allow such permits to be issued. The measure would not allow such permits to be used in states — such as Illinois — that do not give out concealed-weapons permits.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) offered an amendment that would make D.C. an exception to that rule, but his measure got just three yes votes and 24 no votes after Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) voiced his opposition to the measure.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who chairs the Oversight subcommittee with jurisdiction over the District, voted “present” on Gohmert’s amendment.
D.C. has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, a fact that has long irked gun-rights supporters in Congress. Lawmakers have threatened several times to move bills that would nullify those local laws, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision that individuals have a fundamental right to bear arms.
Though the District has rewritten its gun laws since the Heller decision — and some of the new laws were upheld by a federal appeals court last week — Gohmert said the rules “appear to me to still deprive people of their second amendment rights.”
And while he said he was sympathetic to the idea of states’ rights, Gohmert noted the Constitution specifically dictated “that Congress would be in charge” of the D.C. government.
Not surprisingly, Judiciary Committee Democrats spoke out against Gohmert’s amendment, calling it an infringement on the city’s self-governance.
“We can’t use the District of Columbia as a laboratory,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas).
But the amendment also drew opposition from key Republicans who otherwise support gun rights, including Smith, who said he thought Gohmert’s amendment went “beyond the scope” of the underlying bill.
“I have supported congressional efforts to overturn D.C.’s restrictive gun laws in the past,” Smith said. “I believe this is a debate best saved for another day and another bill. I just don’t think this is the right time to pursue this objective.”
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) also criticized Gohmert’s measure, saying it made little sense to let outsiders carry weapons in the District while city residents themselves could not.
“It seems to me to be somewhat inconsistent,” Poe said. “Why are we not giving them the right to carry as well?”
Before the amendment was defeated, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said it was “not the first time that House Judiciary Committee Republicans have taken the lead in attacking the District’s home rule,”noting that the same panel had moved legislation to make permanent a ban on local-government funded abortions in D.C.
Though he dislikes the city’s gun laws, Gohmert isn’t opposed to making some changes in the District’s current status.
“I am sensitive to those who have said … that taxation without representation is tyranny,” Gohmert said.
For that reason, Gohmert said he is readying two bills: One that would allow D.C. citizens, like residents of U.S. territories, to avoid paying federal income taxes, and another that would make the District part of Maryland.