D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), already upset from being denied a chance to testify against a measure that would ban late-term abortions in the District, rebuked the House of Representatives for approving a non-binding measure calling for active-duty military personnel to be exempt from the District’s gun laws.
According to The Washington Post, the “Sense of Congress” resolution — offered by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) as an amendment to the massive Defense authorization bill — has no force of law and passed by voice vote, without a roll call.
But Norton objected to what she sees as continuing meddling in the District’s right to self-governance and disregard for home rule.
“If Representative Gingrey believes that active duty military personnel should be exempt from federal or state or local firearms laws, why did he not offer an amendment that would apply nationwide?” Norton asked on the House floor May 16. “Perhaps he did not offer such an amendment for the same reason that the Republican sponsor of the bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia did not introduce a 20-week bill that would apply nationwide, either. They pick on D.C. because they think they can.”
Gingrey spokeswoman Jen Talaber said the U.S. Constitution “specifically gives Congress the power to ‘exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases, whatsoever’ over the District of Columbia. To suggest this amendment was intended to bully D.C. rather than provide relief for the 40,000 active duty military personnel who reside within D.C.’s borders is to miss the point entirely.”
District officials are particularly sensitive about the gun-rights issue because the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun advocates in Congress have tried previously to amend bills on other city issues that would eliminate most of the District’s restrictions on guns. At one time, D.C. had one of the strongest gun laws in the country.
In 2009, Democratic leaders abandoned an effort to grant Norton voting rights on the House floor, which appeared close to approval, after a bipartisan group of lawmakers vowed to attach gun language to the legislation. Last year, an amendment failed in the House Judiciary Committee to give people with concealed-carry permits issued by any state the right to have concealed weapons in the District.