This vote was on an amendment by John Ensign, R-Nev., that would prohibit the District of Columbia from restricting its citizenry from possessing firearms. It also would repeal the District of Columbia’s laws barring possession of certain semiautomatic weapons. It would repeal the District’s mandates on gun registration as well as the requirement that firearms be stored disassembled or with a trigger lock. It would allow residents of the District of Columbia to purchase firearms in neighboring Maryland and Virginia. The amendment was offered to a bill that would give Washington, D.C. full voting representation in the House.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that DC’s gun laws – which made it all but impossible for a citizen to own a gun -- were unconstitutional, and ordered the government to redraft the laws. Since then, the DC City Council has redrafted the laws, but they are still very restrictive and are meant to discourage gun ownership. Ensign’s amendment would basically remove those restrictions.
“The District of Columbia has attempted to subvert what the Supreme Court said by putting very burdensome types of laws to make it more and more difficult for District residents to own a gun in order to protect themselves in their own homes,” Ensign said. “Our amendment basically ensures the individual’s second amendment right. Right now, we know that if a criminal in Washington, DC, wants to get a gun, they will get a gun. We are making it difficult for the people who actually abide by the law to get a gun. We want law-abiding citizens to have the arms, not just the criminals. That is what this amendment is really all about.”
Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Ensign’s amendment would go much farther than the Supreme Court ever envisioned, including repealing DC’s ban on semiautomatic weapons, including assault weapons.
“If this amendment becomes law, military-style assault weapons with high-capacity magazines will be allowed to be stockpiled in homes and businesses in the District, even near Federal buildings such as the White House and the Capitol. Even the .50 caliber sniper rifle, with a range of over 1 mile, will be allowed in DC under this amendment. This is a weapon capable of firing rounds that can penetrate concrete and armor plating,” Feinstein said. “Is this what we want to do? There is simply no good reason anyone needs semiautomatic, military-style assault weapons in an urban community. It is unfathomable to me that the same high-powered sniper rifle used by our Armed Forces will be permitted in the Nation’s Capitol. Yet this is exactly what the amendment would allow if passed by the Senate.”
By a vote of 62-36, the amendment was adopted. All but one Republican present voted for the amendment. Of Democrats present, 22 voted for the amendment and 33 voted against it (including the most progressive members). The end result is that the measure went forward with language that would remove DC’s prohibition against individual possessing firearms, including certain semiautomatic weapons, and generally make it easier for DC citizens to own firearms.