The mayor of the District of Columbia argued last week that assault rifles are “only meant to devastate humans,” and that following the massacre in Orlando, Congress must “finally do something” about guns.
But it’s safe to say that this is not what Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, a Democrat, had in mind: House Republicans on Monday introduced measures that would effectively wipe out existing gun-control laws in the District, which are among the country’s most restrictive.
Under one measure, introduced by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), the District would be prohibited from spending money to enforce laws regarding which residents and visitors can carry firearms.
Another, authored by Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), would prevent D.C. from limiting concealed-carry permits to those with a “good reason” to do so. And a third, also by Massie, would keep the District from enforcing its gun-free zones, such as those around D.C. public schools and government buildings, where firearms are now prohibited.
Massie, who has attempted to roll back D.C. gun laws before, said in a statement emailed to reporters that he wants to let residents and visitors to the nation’s capital arm themselves in hopes of preventing an Orlando-style attack.
“Gun control is not the solution. The only practical way to have prevented this tragedy is by eliminating gun-free zones where security is inadequate to protect law-abiding citizens who are otherwise capable, willing and endowed (by their Creator with the right) to defend themselves,” Massie wrote. “I introduced these amendments to reduce the likelihood of a similar tragedy in DC.”
Taken together, the proposals could supercede a court fight that for now has kept the city’s gun laws intact. They could instead force the District to let almost any gun owner in the 50 states bring a firearm into the District — and that fits a theme for Massie. After the attack on a gay nightclub that killed 49 last week in Orlando, Massie tweeted a picture of himself with an assault rifle and said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun — responsible AR-15 owner for 20 yrs #2A.”
The measures, known as “riders,” are a frequent tool that conservative federal lawmakers use to dictate spending on social and criminal justice programs in the District, where most voters are Democrats. In recent years, the House has voted to keep the area from using its local revenue to fully implement a successful ballot measure to legalize marijuana. The House also perennially uses a rider to block the District from using its tax dollars to subsidize abortions for low-income residents.
The measures must clear a procedural hurdle Tuesday in the House Rules Committee. They could be brought for a vote on the House floor as early as Wednesday. If passed, the riders would have to be debated with Senate budget negotiators.
Last year, the House also used a rider to try to strike down a D.C. law banning discrimination over employees’ reproductive decisions. That passed the House but the Senate refused to accept it.
Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Al.) has again filed an amendment to keep the District from spending any money to implement the law.
In a twist, advocates for marijuana legalization said they think there will be a close vote this year on a rider to keep the District from spending money to legalize pot. A bill to give states more leeway on marijuana policy passed the House last year with more than 40 Republican members in support.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, who has been leading a new charge for D.C. to become the 51st state, sent out a tweet Tuesday saying Massie’s bill illustrated the need:
“One of the many reasons DC deserves full statehood & representation in Congress. Our residents agree,” she wrote, adding the hastag “DCStatehood”.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative to the House, can do little to stop the riders, but she introduced several of her own, seeking a vote on Republican measures that would block the District from spending local tax dollars as it sees fit.
“This week, House Republicans once again look to violate their self-proclaimed principles of local control over local affairs by imposing undemocratic riders on the District of Columbia,” Norton said in a statement. “If members want to step all over D.C. home rule and our right to self-government, I am going to force them to do it on record and in front of the American people.”