When the laws establishing the District of Columbia were created, the founders were too busy bargaining about the National Debt to consider representation of future DC residents, and their negligence has been preserved as if it were intentional. Leaders starting with Andrew Jackson tried to correct this undemocratic oversight, but Congress had inadvertently created a little playpen in DC, where congressmen could throw their weight around without consequences, and they enjoyed it. Two centuries later, they still do.
Pending legislation (S 160 and HR 157) would remedy two centuries of Congressional neglect by granting DC a vote in the House of Representatives. Democracy might finally come to the 600,000 American citizens who live in the Capital of the Free World, but there’s a hitch.
A man of strong moral principles, Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada (State motto: Meretricis et Alea, “Whores and Gambling”) has added a completely unrelated amendment to the bill. It would throw out gun laws established by the District’s duly elected officials and mandate interstate gun sales (illegal everywhere else in the country). Washington residents would be allowed to buy firearms in Maryland and Virginia.
DC’s police chief and attorney general have testified against this reckless amendment. Maryland officials have called the legislation unworkable. Officials in Virginia (where many citizens are “straw buyers” for criminals from other states) are too busy commemorating the Virginia Tech massacre and preserving their Gun Show Loophole to comment on the Ensign Amendment.
A Congressional vote for DC is one thing; local public safety laws are quite another. If Mr. Ensign doesn’t like DC’s laws, let him move here, establish residency, register to vote, and elect officials who share his views. If he wants to pass a national law, one that would allow Nevada residents to buy guns in neighboring Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho and Oregon, let him explain that to the merchants of Las Vegas, Reno, and Carson City. Two separate issues; they require two separate bills.
There’s a name for depriving people of their freedom and holding them hostage at gunpoint. It’s called piracy.
To understand the DC Vote issue, please read “Congress Has the Authority to Do Right by D.C.” by Kenneth Starr and Patricia M. Wald, and “10 Myths about the District of Columbia,” by dcvote.org (compulsory reading for would-be commenters).
Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
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