(At the Request of Mr. REID, the Following Statement was Ordered to be Printed in the Record.) -- (Senate - September 26, 2008)
(At the request of Mr. REID, the following statement was ordered to be printed in the Record.)
DC GUN LAWS
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I strongly oppose H.R. 6842. This bill would be a disastrous blow to gun safety in the District of Columbia. For almost three decades, the District's handgun and assault weapon ban has helped to reduce the risk of deadly gun violence. City residents and public officials overwhelmingly supported the ban, and courts have upheld it--until the Supreme Court's recent misguided decision in the Heller case in June. Now, we are facing an orchestrated assault that jeopardizes public safety. It is hard to understand how the increased availability of handguns and assault weapons in our Nation's Capital will make residents and visitors safer.
Introducing more guns onto the streets and into the community will only increase the number of violent deaths in DC, including homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings. The increased availability of firearms will make it more likely that deadly violence will erupt in our public buildings, offices, and public spaces.
This bill will have dangerous consequences for residents and visitors alike. It removes criminal penalties for possession of unregistered firearms. It legalizes the sale of assault weapons in the District. It allows handguns and assault weapons to be kept legally in the city's homes and workplaces. It hobbles the authority of the Mayor and the City Council to deal with gun violence. Absurdly, this bill even prevents the City Council from enacting any laws that ``discourage'' gun ownership or require safe storage of firearms.
As Congresswoman ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON has emphasized, this bill sets no age limit for possession of guns, including military-style weapons. It permits a person who is voluntarily committed to a mental institution to own a gun the day after the person is released. It prevents gun registration, even for the purpose of letting police know who has guns and tracing guns used in crimes. It prevents the DC government from adopting any regulations on guns, leaving only a bare Federal statute that would leave DC with one of the most permissive gun laws in the Nation.
This bill is a frontal assault on the well-established principle of home rule. It is an insult to the 580,000 citizens of the District of Columbia. It tramples on the rights of its elected leaders and local residents to determine for themselves the policies that govern their homes, streets, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Congress wouldn't dare do this to any State, and it shouldn't do it to the District of Columbia.
Congress has consistently opposed giving the residents of the District the full voting representation in Congress they deserve. Many of our colleagues have frequently attempted to interfere with local policymaking and spending decisions. This bill is a blatant interference with DC law enforcement by denying the right of the City Council to regulate firearms and firearm ownership.
I commend Senator Feinstein and Senator Lautenberg for their leadership in opposing this shameful legislation, and I urge my colleagues to oppose this reckless, special-interest bill that will endanger the safety of the District of Columbia's residents and visitors.
The solution to DC's gun crime problem lies in strengthening the Nation's lax gun laws, not weakening those in the District. The tragic and graphic stories of gun violence that capture front-page headlines in the District show that current gun-safety laws need to be strengthened, not abolished. I have long been committed to reasonable gun control laws, and I am concerned that the Supreme Court's decision on the DC gun ban opens a Pandora's box. Much of the progress we have made in making Americans safer by placing reasonable restrictions on the possession of firearms is now in doubt. It is a bitter irony that this gross setback comes in the name of a right to self-defense, and I urge the Senate to oppose it.