On September 17, America celebrated Constitution Day, a day set aside to recognize the ratification of what is quite possibly the most influential document of the last 300 years.
It is fitting, then, that on the day designed to honor our Constitution, Congress would act to restore the Second Amendment rights of those living in our nation's capital.
For 32 years, Washington D.C. has been home to some of the most stringent gun laws in the United States, laws which effectively banned all private ownership of firearms. These laws were challenged several times, most recently in the form of the District of Columbia v. Heller case, which eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On June 26th, the highest court in the land upheld a federal appeals court ruling overturning the law prohibiting private citizens from possessing handguns in the District of Columbia. On the strength of a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the 32 year-old ban on handgun possession violated residents' Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The landmark decision marked the first time the Supreme Court ruled on the Second Amendment since 1939. The handgun ban had been in place in Washington D.C. since 1976, but has been largely ineffective in preventing criminals from getting guns.
The Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to keep and bear arms, and for too long this right has been denied to the people living in our nation's capital. The Supreme Court in its ruling upheld American citizens' right to defend themselves, and no city or state has the right to take that right away.
Crucially, the Court ruled a militia is in fact not a military, but made up of members of the citizenry itself who have a right to home and self-defense - a right which supersedes any attempt by a city or state to abrogate that right.
The D.C. city council responded in July by passing a temporary measure allowing possession of unloaded and inoperable weapons in homes, but keeping intact numerous onerous regulations and the ban on semiautomatic weapons.
I have long felt law abiding citizens who live in Washington D.C. have just as much right to protect themselves and their families as do Nebraskans.
This is why I co-sponsored H.R. 6691, the Second Amendment Enforcement Act, the bill which eventually made its way to the House Floor on Constitution Day and passed overwhelmingly. The legislation passed will repeal Washington D.C.'s ban on semi-automatic handguns, repeal the requirement for firearms to be disassembled or secured with a trigger lock in the home, and repeals the current difficult and prohibitive registration requirement which requires multiple visits to police headquarters, ballistics testing, fingerprinting, and limits citizens to one gun registered every 90 days.
Currently, federal law prohibits buying guns in one state and registering them in another. As D.C. only has one licensed dealer in the entire city, the bill passed creates a limited exemption to the federal ban by allowing D.C. residents to purchase handguns in Virginia and Maryland.
Our country's founders understood how important the principle of the Second Amendment is in ensuring our basic freedoms. They had faith in the citizens of America. We should show a similar faith in the residents of Washington D.C.