WASHINGTON - March 1 - The United States Senate has scheduled a vote on whether to approve legislation that would force the city of Washington, D.C. to end all of its current laws aimed at curbing gun violence. The legislation has been offered as an amendment to the gun industry immunity bill that would provide unprecedented immunity against civil suits to reckless gun dealers.
The U.S. Senate needs to examine this measure carefully before putting the lives of the residents of the nations capitol at risk, says Chris McGrath, executive director of Handgun-Free America, a national organization dedicated to banning handguns in America. Washington, D.C. continues to be plagued by gun violence, and the last thing that is needed is for thousands more handguns and assault weapons to be introduced onto the streets of the city.
Businesses are lining up to oppose the measure. Last week, a coalition of over 100 Washington-based businesses and organizations sent a letter to the Senate urging them to reject any proposal to overturn gun laws. Also, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, an organization representing over 1,200 member companies and 40% of the areas workforce, has also indicated its strong support for current gun laws in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) last week.
The bill on which the amendment is being proposed, S. 1805, would provide legal immunity to the gun industry including gun dealers who act in a reckless or negligent manner. While Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is spearheading the measure, Senator Frist is introducing the amendment. Currently, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the amendment tomorrow, March 2, at 9:30 AM EST.
This legislation is one component of a coordinated attack by the gun lobby on the residents of Washington, D.C., McGrath notes. On January 14, a federal court ruled against the National Rifle Association in a lawsuit challenging the D.C. handgun ban. In that case, the court upheld the handgun ban, noting that the Second Amendment does not guarantee an individual the right to own a handgun.
After losing in court, the NRA is now trying to push the measure through a congress largely in the pocket of this special interest lobby, says McGrath. Since 1998, the gun industry has spent more than $1.6 million in direct and indirect political contributions to the senators cosponsoring the measure and their colleagues in the House who have cosponsored a similar measure.
Today, city leaders overwhelmingly spoke out against the reversal of Washingtons gun laws. In a press conference at police headquarters, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Chief of Police Charles Ramsey publicly called on the Senate to reject any measure that would take the fight against gun violence out of local hands and prevent the city from protecting itself against guns, McGrath states.
If this legislation passes, gun stores and pawn shops will immediately set up shop peddling pistols and assault weapons, McGrath warns. These very same guns will be used to terrorize residents of a city that already knows too well the effects that guns can have. Police officials work hard enough to stop the illegal flow of guns into the city from other states. Opening up new sources of guns in the city will only compound the problem and make it impossible for police to adequately protect the people.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, 97% of all guns used in crime in the nations capitol originate from outside the city all of which come from states with less stringent gun laws than D.C.