McCain-Tester Gun Bill Faces Harsh Opposition among Local Officials

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A gun control bill that Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) are sponsoring this week on Capitol Hill is being shot down by members of the District of Columbia City Council, who view it as an imposition of the senators’ wills on the city’s residents.

During a May 5 rally, several council representatives, surrounded on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building by families of some of the victims of the spate of shootings that have occurred since Easter week, chastised the senators, saying their legislation was reminiscent of “slavery in the South,” and that they have gone too far and need to stay out of the business of District residents.

“Ever notice how every time a politician gets into a tough election back home they decide to pick on the District of Columbia?” At-large Councilman David Catania asked the crowd of about 100 people. Then, referring to McCain and Tester, he added, “They’re playing politics with the lives of District residents. Our hands are tied and we’re at the will of desperate members of Congress.”

Mc Cain and Tester’s bill, which would repeal the city’s ban on semiautomatic weapons, authorize residents to buy guns and ammunition in Maryland and Virginia and repeal registration requirements, comes on the heels of recently vacated efforts by city officials to garner a voting member in the House. That action was brought to a halt due to similar pro-gun language that had been attached at the last minute to the District’s voting rights legislation.

Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry represents the Southeast Washington district, where separate shooting incidents have claimed the lives of several young people. Stepping before the podium chanting “No more guns,” he said he was glad that the House decided to withdraw the voting rights bill, as there were some people willing to trade statehood for a guns amendment. “Freedom should not be given at any price,” he said. “If you give away one right, you get another right and that doesn’t make any sense.”

At-large Councilman Kwame Brown said the senators’ legislation represents “another egregious attempt” to impose their will on District residents at the risk of exposing them to acts of gun violence. He added that it was “absurd that senators continue to lecture us about the Constitution, while denying us the full representation that the people of Arizona and Montana enjoy.”

According to Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop the Violence, the legislation needs to be killed. He also said the legislation boils down to “a terrible attempt” on McCain’s part to bolster his position on gun laws. But, “John McCain’s kids don’t live in D.C.,” Horwitz said. “We’re completely against [their bill]. We think it’s a complete affront to public safety.”