WASHINGTON - March 1 - The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today condemned an effort by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to repeal the District of Columbia's decades-old handgun ban. The amendment is scheduled for a vote tomorrow, Tuesday, March 2, as an amendment to a bill granting the gun industry limited immunity from civil liability.
The Frist amendment was first introduced in the Senate as free-standing legislation by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The bill, S. 1414, and its House companion bill, H.R. 3193, sponsored by Representative Mark Souder (R-IN), were introduced in July of 2003. In addition to overturning the 1976 DC handgun ban, the legislation would restrict the DC City Council's authority to regulate firearms by repealing the District's firearm registration requirement and strip the District of its ban on semiautomatic weapons.
VPC Litigation Director Matt Nosanchuk states, "Since its passage, repeal of the DC handgun ban has been the NRA's Holy Grail. This effort is being undertaken without regard for the safety or wishes of DC residents. The last thing District residents want are more guns on their streets. If supporters of this measure truly believe the NRA's rhetoric, then they should also repeal the ban on firearms 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.
The VPC is part of a coalition that is distributing thousands of red and white placards to DC businesses and organizations stating "Keep the DC Handgun Ban," while asking the question, "If the U.S. Capitol can be handgun free, why can't DC?" Outraged by the home-rule implications of the attempt by Senators to impose their will on DC residents who have no voting representation in Congress, the coalition is actively raising awareness about the safety and security threat the legislation represents for all DC residents and businesses.