IT'S NOT ENOUGH that Republican leaders in the House are gearing up to tear down the District's eminently sensible gun laws. There is also a move afoot by gun lovers, led by Idaho Republican Larry E. Craig, to achieve the same goal in the Senate. However, unlike the House, which hopes to have a floor vote later this month, Mr. Craig is aiming for Tuesday, when the Senate Appropriations Committee considers the District's 2005 budget. If he has the votes, the senator -- with National Rifle Association encouragement -- will add his D.C. gun law repeal as an amendment to the $8.2 billion D.C. budget. Senators who respect the District's right to home rule and stand in opposition to escalating gun violence ought to say no to the Craig-sponsored human hunting license.
Fortunately, District residents are not humbly submitting to this blatant attack on self-government and public safety in the nation's capital. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton announced yesterday that a coalition of relatives of gun victims, parents, clergy members, business and education leaders, and union officials is uniting "to save the city's gun laws." The coalition should spread its efforts over both houses of Congress. The gun law repeal has stronger prospects in the House, where the measure has more than enough co-sponsors to pass that chamber. However, a Senate victory will only embolden gun lovers to undo the District's gun laws before adjourning for the fall election campaign.
And, of course, that is what this whole push to trash D.C. gun laws is all about: partisan politics. Having killed off the assault weapons ban, pro-gun interests and their loyal Republican followers now want to force House and Senate Democrats, especially the Democratic presidential ticket, to vote on a gun bill before voters head for the polls on Nov. 2. So what if their repeal will add to the flood of lethal weapons into the city? As Ms. Norton observed: "Republicans are seeking to allow the introduction even of military-style assault weapons into the nation's capital, first by allowing the nationwide ban to expire and now by leaving this city wide-open to the use and sale of guns."
To hear gun advocates such as Mr. Craig tell it, their reason for eliminating the city's gun control laws is the District's crime rates. They have it backward. The city's gun laws have helped police get lethal weapons off the streets, as more than 1,400 firearms recoveries this year will attest. The problem is lax gun laws in other jurisdictions that allow weapons to flood into the city -- and into the hands of criminals. Even so, active law enforcement by D.C. police has brought the city's homicide rate down 23.9 percent from where it was at this time last year. The last thing District residents and their police force need -- in a city that lost 14 of its children to shootings this year -- is an increase in the availability of guns. That is precisely what Mr. Craig and gun lovers in Congress, shamefully and shamelessly, seek to do.