Gunning for D.C.'s Voting Rights

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sen. John Ensign's March 13 op-ed column, "Gun Rights on the Line," was misleading at best and dishonest at worst. This rationale attempts to bully D.C. residents into believing that they must sacrifice their self-governance and safety to have representation in Congress.

Last June, the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the District's blanket ban on handgun possession was unconstitutional. But the majority did not preclude reasonable gun regulations for public safety; it said that "the right [to bear arms] was not unlimited, just as the First Amendment's right of free speech was not."

While the Constitution does provide fundamental rights to all U.S. citizens, it does not provide for unlimited and unrestricted activity in exercising those rights.

Mr. Ensign is correct that "Washington's police officers are on the front lines of the battle against violent crime," which is why Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has been an outspoken critic of stripping the District of the right to regulate firearms. The safety of the officers who protect D.C. residents is and should always be a priority of the federal and city governments. Mr. Ensign should stop interfering with our rights of safety and representation and drop his misplaced amendment.




The delay in action on the D.C. House Voting Rights Act would be just sadly ironic if it weren't for the continued injustice of denying representation in Congress to residents of the District. To saddle a voting rights bill with an amendment that takes away the same residents' ability to lawfully establish their own gun restrictions is petty and patronizing politics.

When our armed forces are overseas fighting to establish for others the right to vote, it is shameful that we can't briefly set aside the issue of guns to allow all Americans this same right. We correctly label gun-wielding criminals as cowards, but it appears that many of our elected officials (including my own senators from Virginia) show no more courage in hiding behind the gun amendment. The D.C. House Voting Rights Act and the long-awaited representation of almost 600,000 people deserve a clean and prompt vote.



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