NOT SATISFIED to be a Republican congressman from Indiana, Rep. Mark Edward Souder also enjoys assuming the role of D.C. Council member, a role in which he -- with guidance from the National Rifle Association -- can try to decide which laws should be on the District's books. Last year Mr. Souder and the NRA tried, but failed, to destroy the ability of D.C. leaders to enact anti-gun laws. They are at it again, drawing a bead on the city's gun safety laws. Unless respect for the rights of D.C. residents to make their own laws -- and common sense about gun safety -- prevails on Capitol Hill, by week's end the city's sensible and broadly supported gun safety law will be history. Congress must not let that happen.
We know it matters not a whit to Mr. Souder and the NRA that every D.C. mayor and D.C. Council member has supported the local law passed in 1976 that required registration of all firearms and prohibited new handgun registrations. The law also required gun owners with firearms at home to store their weapons disassembled or with a trigger lock. Mr. Souder and his friends at the NRA prefer that people keep unlocked and loaded shotguns or rifles in their homes, so they added an amendment to the House version of the D.C. appropriations bill that prevents the city from enforcing its safe-storage requirements. The Senate didn't include such a reckless provision in its version of the bill. This week, a conference committee will meet to reconcile the bills' differences. If the Senate's conferees hold firm, the city will be spared the nightmare that is sure to come from loaded and unlocked guns falling into the hands of children.
That scary picture is borne out in a study published by the journal Pediatrics in September: "Approximately 90% of fatal firearm incidents involving children occur within the home, and according to a study of children and youth aged 0 to 14 years . . . 40% of firearm incidents involve a firearm stored in the room in which the shooting occurs." In direct contradiction to the Souder-NRA amendment, the study found that "safe storage practices, including keeping firearms stored unloaded, locked, or separate from ammunition, are associated with significant reductions in the risk of unintentional injuries and suicides among children and youth."
But Mr. Souder is as ready to ignore evidence as he is to undermine local democracy. Congress should not go along.