He himself was once shot, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry told a Senate hearing yesterday, and he thinks the lawmakers should strengthen - and certainly not weaken - current national laws that control the ownership of firearms.
Serving as spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Barry testified against pending legislation that, among other things, would repeal federal legislation that prevents residents of the District or any state from legally buying a handgun in another state.
"This would be a particular problem for the District of Columbia . . . because we are surrounded by two states with significantly weaker gun control laws," Barry told Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who conducted the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing without attendance by other members.
Barry said out-of-state purchases would make it easier for criminals to evade the D.C. law that outlaws the private ownership of handguns, except for those registered by their owners before a 1976 deadline. The mayor cited a study that claimed the law resulted in a lowered handgun-related crime rate in the city.
Responding to a question prepared by Sen. James A. McClure (R-Idaho), a sponsor of the pending bill, Barry acknowledged that "as a practical matter" many District residents violate the law by keeping loaded handguns in their homes. The law permits loaded handguns to be kept only on business premises.
Barry, as a member of the D.C. City Council, was wounded by a shotgun in 1977 when Hanafi Muslims took over the District Building, a fact noted as he began his testimony. Barry arrived nearly an hour late for the hearing because the battery in his car was dead.