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D.C. Residents Rally in Support of Gun Restrictions

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By Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Amid the rapid clip of anti-gun speeches last night, Eric Wright fired back.

The five-year city resident stepped before a microphone and said he had been attacked three times by homeless people and shot at as he drove through Rock Creek Park.

"I deserve the right to defend myself. I deserve the right to carry a weapon by my side," Wright said at an anti-gun town hall meeting at Shaw Junior High School in Northwest Washington. "I'd like to know why people believe I don't have that right."

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a sponsor of the event, responded by questioning whether guns offer citizens much protection. And she wondered aloud whether Wright, if he had been armed, would have stopped his car and started firing back.

More than 200 people, including Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, attended the meeting, designed to rally opposition to congressional efforts to abolish various D.C. gun laws.

Overwhelmingly, residents, some of whom had lost loved ones to gun violence, delivered passionate speeches, speaking of a direct correlation between guns and crime. Among the speakers was the Rev. Anthony Black, the father of Antre-Vyn Mason-Black, an Iraq war veteran who was fatally shot last month in the District.

But Wright's remarks, echoed by a few others in attendance, provided a rare public glimpse of the pro-gun contingent in the District, which politicians say represents a small minority. Some waved yellow signs urging repeal.

Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to repeal one of the District's gun restrictions. The legislation would allow residents to keep in their homes loaded and assembled rifles and shotguns, as well as handguns purchased before 1976, loaded and assembled.

The meeting began with a familiar refrain: Norton criticizing Congress for meddling in the District's affairs.

"If in fact they need the gun laws repealed, they need to tell it to the [D.C.] Council," she said. Council members unanimously support the city's gun laws, which are among the toughest in the nation.

Williams, who sat on the stage, stood up and expressed his disdain for Congress's latest efforts.

"I find it outrageous," he said.

Resident Margaret Hollister recalled the day an armed robber entered her home. He knocked her teeth out. He forced her to kneel before a toilet. He ran off with her valuables.

"What good would it have done for me to have a gun in the house?" she asked.

Kris Hammond, a member of D.C. Young Republicans, challenged the city's gun laws, saying they leave some women vulnerable to domestic attacks.

He asked, hypothetically, about a woman with a restraining order against her ex-husband who needed to fend him off as he tried to break into her house.

"What should she do" if the police don't show up in time, he asked.

Ramsey, who also was on stage, responded that the presence of guns in households often results in more violence.

And he added, in reference to Wright's earlier remarks about the homeless, that most homeless people are unarmed.


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