Congress Poised to Vote on National Rifle Association-Backed Bill to Repeal DC Gun Laws

For Release:  Monday, September 20, 2004

Washington, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote on a bill sponsored by Representative Mark Souder (R-IN) to overturn all of the District of Columbia’s gun laws that are stricter than federal law. The bill currently has 228 co-sponsors. The bill, H.R. 3193, would: repeal the District’s ban on handguns and semiautomatic weapons, including assault weapons; end firearm registration requirements; and, remove criminal penalties for possessing an unregistered firearm. Under the bill, the District government would be denied the “authority to enact laws or regulations that discourage or eliminate the private ownership or use of firearms.” A vote to add a similar measure to the District’s fiscal year 2005 spending bill in the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected tomorrow. [The VPC has b-roll of assault weapons that would be legalized under the legislation.]

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, “Since its passage, repeal of the DC handgun ban has been the National Rifle Association’s Holy Grail. This effort is being undertaken without regard for the safety of DC residents or our national leaders. To think that at the same time that DC is being turned into a virtual fortress with vehicle checkpoints on public streets and cement barriers at every turn Congress is going to allow handguns and assault weapons to be sold and transported throughout the city is sheer lunacy. If Congress truly believes the NRA’s rhetoric, then it should also repeal the ban on guns in the U.S. Capitol.”

The effectiveness of the District’s current ban on handgun possession is demonstrated by the fact that virtually none of the guns used in crime in the District originated here. Gun dealers in the District accounted for only three percent of recovered crime guns in 2000. In contrast, 59 percent of traceable DC crime guns were first purchased in Virginia and Maryland. Another 18 percent of DC crime guns were bought from gun dealers in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. All of these jurisdictions have gun laws far more lenient than the District of Columbia’s. Recognizing the District’s lack of voting representation in Congress, gun ban supporters are urging Congress to respect the District’s home-rule rights.

In response to the last attempt to repeal the law in March 2004, DC law enforcement, businesses, associations, and residents successfully fought to keep the ban. The VPC and other organizations distributed thousands of red and white placards stating “Keep the DC Handgun Ban,” while asking the question, “If the U.S. Capitol can be handgun free, why can’t DC?”






The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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Georgia Seltzer
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