|Norton Tells Colleagues That Supreme Court Decision Vindicates D.C.'s New Gun Laws|
Norton Tells Senate and House Colleagues That Yesterday's Supreme Court Decision Vindicates D.C.'s New Gun Laws
WASHINGTON, DC - In a letter today to her House and Senate colleagues, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said, that yesterday's Second Amendment Supreme Court decision appears to sanction gun laws like the District's new and revised gun laws.
She cited the Court's language that the Second Amendment does not confer "the right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose" as well as examples from the opinion that are also included in the District's revised gun laws. The District's new gun laws have already been upheld by a federal court.
"None of my colleagues in Congress would ever tolerate interference with their local laws by other Members of Congress, regardless of the reason," Norton said in the letter. "I ask for the same respect." Norton asked her Democratic colleagues, who have already overwhelmingly voted for the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act in the House and the Senate, to remain true to the 1973 Home Rule Act, which Democrats led in enacting, and to the Democratic Party platform, which has long supported equal rights for the citizens of the District of Columbia.
"As you go home to celebrate July 4th, commemorating the establishment of our nation, I ask you to remember that the citizens of the nation's capital are the only Americans who are required to pay taxes without representation."
Norton's letter is enclosed.
Supreme Court Decision Undermines Rationale for D.C. Gun Bill
Respect D.C.'s Right to Self-Government and Congressional Representation
Dear Democratic Colleague:
Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a decision, McDonald v. City of Chicago, that appears to sanction gun laws like the new and revised gun laws that the District of Columbia enacted after the Court overturned the District's prior laws in District of Columbia v. Heller. The District's new gun laws have since been upheld by a federal court. However, a new amendment that would have eliminated these new gun laws forced me to delay House floor consideration of the D.C. House Voting Rights Act (DCVRA). That new gun amendment has now been introduced as a stand-alone bill, the Second Amendment Enforcement Act (H.R. 5162/S. 3265).
I want to express my gratitude for the support that I have received from many in our Caucus since I delayed consideration of the DCVRA, which would have given the federal taxpaying citizens of the District of Columbia a House vote like all other taxpaying Americans. The overwhelming majority of Democrats have voted for the DCVRA, and I know that many of you are disappointed that you have not had the opportunity this Congress to vote for final passage. After working for years on the DCVRA with Republican co-sponsors in the House and Senate, I decided to accept the Ensign amendment attached to the Senate-passed DCVRA, rather than give up the opportunity for the city's federal taxpaying residents to get a House vote. However, in the end, I had to delay passage of the DCVRA after a new gun amendment, which went far beyond the Ensign amendment, was attached to the House bill. We continue to work not only on the DCVRA but on a number of other approaches as well to secure our rights to representation and full equality with other American citizens in Congress. All approaches, however, are jeopardized by the new congressionally written local gun bill that goes far beyond what the Supreme Court held yesterday.
Not only have D.C.'s current gun laws recently been upheld by a federal court, but the Supreme Court yesterday suggested that the District's laws are constitutional. As in Heller, the Supreme Court yesterday said that the Second Amendment does not confer the "‘right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.' We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as ‘prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill', ‘laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.' We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents' doomsday proclamations, incorporation does not imperil every law regulating firearms.'"
Whatever our disagreements on guns, however, there is no justification for Members to force their will on the democratically enacted local laws of a jurisdiction where Members have not been elected and are not accountable to the voters. Surely, Democrats would not want to join most Republicans, who have never respected democratic self-government in the District of Columbia, but instead have made it their business to use D.C. issues to force Democrats to take tough votes. Democrats representing all views in our party and from all regions of our country have long honored the self-governing rights of the District of Columbia. None of my colleagues in Congress would ever tolerate interference with their local laws by other Members of Congress, regardless of the reason. I ask for the same respect.
I am proud of our incredibly diverse party and Caucus, without which we would not have the comfortable congressional majority we enjoy. I believe our big-tent Caucus is a big plus for keeping our Democratic majority, and I fully accept the range of views on guns in particular. However, the American citizens who live in our nation's capital and pay the second highest amount in taxes per capita to support the U.S. government are now faced with the possibility of losing the first real chance for representation since the city was created 209 years ago.
Our Caucus, which led in enacting the historic D.C. Home Rule Act of 1973, as well as the national Democratic Party, has been clear on one issue for decades: Democrats support the District of Columbia's right to govern its own local affairs, known as home rule, without interference from Congress, just as Members demand such respect for themselves and their districts. The 2008 Democratic Party Platform states, "Our civil rights leaders and many Americans of every background have sacrificed too much for us to tolerate continuing denial to the nearly 600,000 residents of our nation's capital of the benefits of full citizenship, especially the vote, that are accorded to citizens of every state. We support equal rights to democratic self-government and congressional representation for the citizens of our nation's capital."
The D.C. gun bill has nothing to do with your own district. As you go home to celebrate July 4th, commemorating the establishment of our nation, I ask you to remember that the citizens of the nation's capital are the only Americans who are still required to pay federal taxes without representation. As your colleague, I ask that you decline to join in any effort to bring the D.C. gun bill, which blocks our rights, to the floor.
Eleanor Holmes Norton