DISABLED VETERANS AND OTHER PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES -- (Senate - October 20, 2005)
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, as this bill now moves to conference with the House, I strongly urge our Senate conferees to reject an unfortunate amendment adopted by the House prohibiting the allocation of any funds for the District of Columbia to enforce its firearms registration law and its requirement for DC residents to keep their firearms unloaded and disassembled, or bound by a trigger lock. In effect, the House amendment would repeal the DC Government's longstanding ban on firearms and would be a disastrous blow to gun safety in the District. For almost three decades, DC's ban on handguns and assault weapons bans have helped reduce the risk of deadly handgun violence. City residents and public officials overwhelmingly support the ban, and the courts have upheld it. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Anthony Williams, and Police Chief Charles Ramsey all strongly oppose the House amendment.
Mayor Williams has called this effort to repeal the city's gun ban ``a slap in the face.'' Chief Ramsey has said that a repeal of DC's gun ban would have a ``scary'' impact. Without question, more guns mean more violence. More than half of the robberies and 20 percent of the aggravated assaults in the city are committed with a firearm. In 2004, nearly 80 percent of District homicides were committed with firearms. The youngest victim was only 7 years old.
It is difficult to understand how weaker gun safety laws will make residents and visitors safer. This effort by Congress to prevent the enforcement of the DC gun laws will only serve to increase the number of homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. Greater availability of firearms will make it more likely that deadly handgun violence will erupt in public buildings, offices, and public spaces. Over 20 million visitors come to Washington each year, and this amendment puts the safety of all of them at needless risk.
The amendment is also an attack upon the well-established principle of home rule for the District. It tramples the rights of the city's elected leaders and local residents to govern their homes, streets, neighborhoods, and workplaces. It is an insult to the 600,000 citizens of the District of Columbia.
Statistics show that crime prevention is working in the District. Crime decreased 18 percent last year and homicides went down 17 percent. In the first 5 months of 2005, the Metropolitan Police Department confiscated more than 1,000 firearms on city streets. Only a tiny percentage of recovered firearms are registered in the District. The city continues to face serious concerns about firearms illegally brought into the city from other jurisdictions, and the House amendment would unfairly limit the ability of DC officials to combat this problem.
Congress should respect the public safety efforts of this city's leaders and let the District decide what firearm regulations are best for its citizens. I urge my colleagues to oppose this reckless, special-interest amendment that will endanger the safety of all who live or work or visit here.