Voting rights vs. gun laws

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Post asked whether Congress should pass legislation giving D.C. residents a vote in the House, or whether amendments to the legislation that roll back the city's gun-control laws is too high a price. Below, responses from Tom Davis, Paul Helmke, Robert A. Levy, Wade Henderson and Kristopher Baumann.


Former U.S. representative from Virginia; president of the Republican Main Street Partnership

For voting-rights activists, the answer is clear. As distasteful as the gun amendments may be, the District should reluctantly accept them as the compromise for a vote in Congress. I say this because the Senate's coloration will change in November, and the 60 votes needed to pass voting rights for Washington simply will not be there for several more years at best. Moreover, the National Rifle Association has the votes now and will have the votes in the next Congress to impose gun rights on the city. The compromise that gives red Utah an extra seat to offset the blue one Washington will get also expires with this Congress.

The worst outcome would be to allow this opportunity to pass and have the next Congress impose gun rights anyway. Senate Democrats are likely to lose at least three seats in the upcoming election and will lose the 60 votes needed to pass this bill, which they currently have. And the 2012 Senate election cycle has 21 Democrats facing reelection and only 12 Republicans, making further GOP (and anti-voting rights) gains probable.

Voting rights for the D.C. delegate to Congress are too important to put off for another generation. Those who advocate waiting for the perfect bill do not understand the political realities and do their constituents a disservice by pretending otherwise.


President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

After the Supreme Court struck down the District's handgun ban, the D.C. Council enacted common-sense laws to keep guns from criminals and ensure gun safety. D.C. homicide rates are at their lowest level in decades. A federal court recently ruled that D.C. gun laws are constitutional and protect public safety. Now political leaders are faced with a false choice between sacrificing the city's gun laws and obtaining voting rights in Congress. They should not take the trade.

Illegal guns continue flooding into the District from states where it is too easy for dangerous people to get deadly weapons. Rather than strengthen atrociously weak federal laws that allow many sales at gun shows without background checks, Congress would force the District to abandon its ability to regulate guns.

The gun lobby's amendment would endanger residents and tourists and threaten national security by repealing the District's ban on sniper rifles that can penetrate armored vehicles. It would make it legal for teenagers to possess assault rifles, weaken restrictions on gun possession by drug criminals and the mentally ill, and repeal safe-storage laws.

Democratic leaders should not force the District to sacrifice its ability to protect its residents from gun violence. And President Obama, who has so far abdicated any leadership role on preventing gun violence, should veto any repeal of the District's lifesaving gun laws, lest his legacy be tarnished with the deaths of more innocents lost to gun violence he will have helped enable.

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