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D.C. Weighs Price of Securing Vote in Congress

Gun Law Compromise May Be Unavoidable to Pass Bill

Valencia Mohammed, left, director of Mothers of Unsolved Murders, said she would support a compromise on gun laws if it means the District would get a vote in the U.S. House. But City Council member Mary M. Cheh said she would say no to such a deal.
Valencia Mohammed, left, director of Mothers of Unsolved Murders, said she would support a compromise on gun laws if it means the District would get a vote in the U.S. House. But City Council member Mary M. Cheh said she would say no to such a deal. "I . . . don't agree that we should kneel down to the NRA and the gun lobby." (Photos By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
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By Michael E. Ruane and Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 21, 2009

Deal or no deal?

A vote in Congress or gun control.

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Will Washingtonians support a voting rights bill in Congress that would limit city gun regulations, as Mayor Adrian M. Fenty thinks? Or would they rather give up on a vote in the House if the price is watered-down gun laws?

The debate has divided residents and politicians, and it appears to present the District with a game show-style choice: Take the deal that would give the District a vote in Congress but weaken its gun laws, or lose the long-sought vote and keep the gun restrictions.

Deal, said Philip Pannell, a veteran community activist and voting rights advocate from Southeast.

"I don't think the perfect should be the enemy of the good," he said. "If it comes to a situation where we cannot get a voting rights bill that does not have the gun amendment in it, I don't think that the people of D.C. should fall on their sword on that one.

"Right now," Pannell said, "the important piece is to get the vote."

No deal, said Ron Moten, co-founder of the anti-violence group Peaceoholics, who opposes a gun amendment. "Once you compromise your integrity for anything, then you already lost the battle," he said. "If you really in your heart believe that this is not right, then why would you compromise?"

As the debate continued yesterday, there were hints that voting rights advocates are concluding that some kind of compromise on gun laws will be necessary for the vote measure to pass.

Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said that his organization and others have tried to persuade lawmakers to allow the voting rights bill to pass without any gun amendment.

The support for that "is uncertain, notwithstanding our efforts," he said. He said that although it is offensive that Congress is interfering in the city's ability to set its gun laws, the issue should not stop passage of a voting rights bill.

Ilir Zherka, executive director of the advocacy group DC Vote, said his members had visited 80 House offices trying to twist arms. The result was "inconclusive," he said.


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