An angry Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) accused members of Congress yesterday of hypocrisy and abuse of power as the U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote today on a bill repealing virtually all of the District's gun laws.
Chopping at a lectern on Capitol Hill, Williams said his nearly annual trips to defend the interests of 600,000 residents against the whims of a Congress with no voting District representative had "gotten old." City leaders, he said, had "better things to do with our time" than beg lawmakers to show restraint.
"For members of Congress to impose their will on the District is not only deplorable, it is the height of hypocrisy," said Williams, arguing that the change would worsen gun violence in a city in which 21 juveniles have been killed this year. Sixteen died from gunshot wounds.
"It is outrageous . . . . It is an attack on the limited democracy we have here for D.C. residents . . . . It is fundamentally not right."
The comments by Williams, who was joined at the news conference by D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey, were last-ditch efforts to fend off passage of the D.C. Personal Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Mark Edward Souder (R-Ind.) and 227 other lawmakers.
Although passage in the House is all but certain, advocates of the repeal acknowledge that Senate approval is unlikely.
Williams, Ramsey, Janey and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) walked into the office of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) yesterday afternoon seeking an impromptu meeting but left after waiting 20 minutes. Norton said DeLay later told her he was tied up but would call Williams.
Last night, GOP House leaders rejected proposed Democratic amendments to water down the bill by extending a national ban on 19 types of semiautomatic weapons, maintaining such an "assault weapons" ban in the District and banning armor-piercing ammunition in the city.
"The homes of this city will be safer when its law-abiding citizens are on an equal footing with its violent criminals," DeLay said on the House floor earlier. "Washington residents are American citizens and therefore deserve the same right to bear arms to defend themselves as much as anyone else."
District leaders warned of an "arms race with criminals" if the bill becomes law.
"This makes a mockery and a joke of the whole homeland security issue as far as I am concerned," Ramsey said, noting that he had to pass through a checkpoint and metal detector to reach the Capitol and that a security-related visitor center under construction "looks like a bunker to me."
"You have all these protections for the Capitol, and you make city residents fend for themselves," Ramsey said. "They're hiding in bathtubs for protection from stray bullets."
Janey said he would have to tell his students, "This is a textbook case of what not to do in a democracy."