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House Approves Republican Measure To Gut D.C.'s Gun Laws

Under an amendment introduced by a Republican congressman, D.C.'s restrictive gun laws would largely be gutted.
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Under an amendment introduced by a Republican congressman, D.C.'s restrictive gun laws would largely be gutted.

The House of Representative approved an amendment to a spending bill this afternoon that would largely gut the District's restrictive gun laws.

The amendment, which was introduced by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and passed on a voice vote, would prohibit the city from enforcing any of its existing gun laws, including those requiring registration, banning high-capacity magazines and certain assault weapons, and forbidding residents from carrying guns outside of their homes.

Massie's amendment follows a similar attempt last week by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), though it was defeated in the U.S. Senate. It also mirrors longstanding efforts by some congressional Republicans to gut the city's gun laws, which they say unfairly infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of residents.

“Criminals by definition don’t care about laws. They will get guns any way they can," said Massie. "Strict gun control laws do nothing but prevent good people from being able to protect themselves and their families in the event of a robbery, home invasion, or other crime. Studies indicate that murder rates rise following bans on firearms.”

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton argued against Massie's amendment, saying that it infringed upon the city's right to govern itself.

"Representative Massie, who claims at every turn to support local control of local affairs, is using the power of the federal government to overturn the laws of a local jurisdiction. Public safety is the most local of issues," she said.

Massie rejected that argument, saying that the Constitution allows Congress to legislate for D.C. The city has had an elected mayor and legislature for four decades, but Congress retains ultimate legislative authority over D.C.

"Congress has the authority to legislate in this area... It is time for Congress to step in and stop the D.C. government’s harassment and punishment of law-abiding citizens who simply want to defend themselves," he said.

Norton also argued that Massie's move would imperil residents' safety, and that it contradicted multiple court decisions finding that the city's gun regulations were constitutional.

In May, a federal judge upheld the city's regulations, which were drafted in the wake of the 2008 Supreme Court case that ruled that the city's ban on handguns was unconstitutional.

Massie introduced his amendment during debate on a broader spending bill. Last month, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) used the same bill as a means to introduce an amendment that would block the city from implementing a marijuana decriminalization law that goes into effect tomorrow.

The full spending bill will be voted on today, and would have to be signed by President Barack Obama, who said this week that he would veto it due to the amendments targeting D.C.

Update, 4:15 p.m.: The amendment passed on a roll call vote, 241-181.

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