Updated 3:15 p.m. with comment from Paul spokesman and clarification to D.C. laws on semiautomatic weapons
The District’s relatively strict local gun laws are again under threat from Capitol Hill, with a prominent Republican lawmaker proposing to attach an D.C.-focused amendment to a hunting-themed bill set for Senate floor consideration Wednesday.
It is not the first time Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has taken aim at the city’s gun laws, which include registration and education requirements, a ban on semiautomatic “assault”-type rifles and high-capacity magazines, and tight restrictions on carrying any kind of gun outside one’s home. In 2012, Paul put forward multiple gun-themed amendments that helped scuttle a bipartisan effort to grant the District greater spending freedom.
Rand’s proposed amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act would repeal the registration requirement, end the ban on semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, expand the right to carry guns outside the home and protect the right to carry guns on federal land in D.C. and elsewhere in the country. In essence, the bill would eliminate the District’s local gun laws, leaving only federal firearms law to regulate gun ownership and use in the city. The measure is similar to a House bill introduced in December by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
A spokesman for Paul, who serves as ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee furnished this statement Wednesday: “Both Congress and Supreme Court have recognized the Second Amendment protects the rights of individuals, including those who are not members of a militia or engaged in military service or training, to keep and bear arms. Despite these Constitutional protections, law-abiding citizens of the District of Columbia are deprived the opportunity of access to handguns, rifles, and shotguns that are commonly kept by private citizens throughout the United States.”
Paul’s amendment won a swift rebuke from Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s congressional delegate, who said she “hoped he would try to bring his position on D.C. issues into greater line with his signature philosophy against federal interference with local affairs.”
“Senator Paul, the tea party standard-bearer, seems to leave his small government, libertarian views at the District line when it comes to the District of Columbia,” Norton said. “Based on his support for reducing the power of the federal government and devolving that power to states and local governments, including his visit to Howard University last year where he discussed the war on drugs, we had hoped he might be an ally in keeping Congress out of D.C.’s local affairs.”
Paul’s amendment comes two weeks after a House member, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), angered local officials by successfully attaching an amendment targeting the District’s marijuana decriminalization law to a House spending bill.
The Senate voted to proceed with debate on the Sportsmen’s Act Wednesday afternoon; Paul’s amendment was just one of many gun-related amendments expected to be offered.
Should the Paul amendment come up for a vote, it could well pass the Democratic-controlled Senate: A similar gun amendment attached to a bill that would grant the District a voting seat in the U.S. House passed in 2009 with Democratic support. The gun measure’s inclusion in the Senate bill helped kill the voting-rights bill, a top priority for D.C. activists.