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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 6842, National Capital Security and Safety Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, H. Res. 1434 provides for the consideration of H.R. 6842, the National Capital Security and Safety Act, under a structured rule. The rule provides 1 hour of general debate controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The rule waives all points of order against consideration of the bill except clauses 9 and 10 of rule XXI. The rule makes in order the amendment in the nature of a substitute printed in the report if offered by Representative Childers. That amendment is debatable for 1 hour. The rule also provides one motion to recommit with or without instructions.

Mr. Speaker, I stand before this House as a supporter of the second amendment, but also as a strong supporter of sensible gun safety legislation. I also stand here as a strong supporter of the elected Government of the District of Columbia, and I respect their right to enact and execute their own laws.

Apparently, and unfortunately, not all of my colleagues agree. They believe that Members of Congress from other States have the right to dictate matters that are best left to local governments.

On June 26, 2008, by a 5-4 decision in the Heller case, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling of the Federal Appeals Court which found the District's ban on handgun possession to be unconstitutional. It is important to note that the court stipulated that this right is not unlimited; they reaffirmed that ``any gun, anywhere'' is not constitutionally protected.

In response to the ruling, the D.C. City Council passed, and the mayor signed, emergency legislation to temporarily allow District residents to
have pistols in their homes. The council will continue their work this week by making those changes permanent.

Mr. Speaker, the elected D.C. City Council and the elected mayor are committed to complying with the Heller decision. The plaintiff in the case, Dick Heller, was quickly allowed to keep a gun in his home.

But that is not good enough for my friends on the other side of this debate. They believe it is not good enough for the D.C. Government to comply with the court's ruling. They believe they can take this opportunity to shove the agenda of a single special interest, the gun lobby, down the throats of the citizens of the District of Columbia.

Mr. Speaker, it is beyond insulting; it is arrogant. I ask my friends on the other side, how would they like it if Congress enacted laws that took away local control in their own communities? Maybe Congress should decide whether the ``Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'' can be assigned in the Dallas County schools. Maybe Congress should decide whether a new Wal-Mart can be built in Tupelo, Mississippi. Maybe Congress should decide how many firefighters the Macon, Georgia Fire Department should have.

I promise you, Mr. Speaker, that if we tried to bring any of those things to the House floor, my friends on the other side of the aisle would be down here screaming about big government and local control. But when it comes to doing the bidding of the gun lobby, they have decided that Congress knows best.

It is bad enough that the citizens of the District of Columbia have to endure taxation without representation every single day. And it is bad enough that even though soldiers from the District of Columbia can fight and die wearing the uniform of the United States, they do not have the right to a full vote in the United States Congress.

We should be strengthening the District's right to govern itself, not trouncing on it. For years, Congress treated the District of Columbia as its little fiefdom. The amendment made in order under this rule would take us back to those bad old days.

Again, the purpose of the underlying bipartisan legislation before us today is to require that the D.C. Government comply with the Heller decision within 180 days. There is simply no need, there is no justification for this Congress to go beyond the Heller decision and impose sweeping changes to the self-governance of D.C. But that is exactly what the Heller amendment would do, easing access to guns, eliminating gun registration, and making D.C. law enforcement's job to protect its residents and the visitors that come here that much harder.

This will, in no way, make our Nation's capital a safer place.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Congresswoman Holmes Norton for her steadfast representation of the District, and for bringing H.R. 6842 to the floor today. I urge my colleagues to support her legislation and to vote ``no'' on the Childers amendment, and I look forward to the debate today.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, this debate is nuts. The Childers amendment, among other things, would allow stockpiling of military-style weapons with high capacity ammunition magazines. It would undermine Federal anti-gun trafficking laws. It would prohibit D.C. from enacting commonsense gun laws. It would repeal commonsense restrictions on gun possession by dangerous unqualified persons. It repeals all age limits for the possession and carrying of long guns, including assault rifles. It allows gun possession by many persons who have committed violent or drug-related misdemeanor crimes. It allows many persons who are dangerously mentally ill to obtain firearms. It repeals registration requirements for firearms. It repeals all safe storage laws.

Mr. Speaker, it is my view that, if, in fact, we enacted the Childers amendment, that we would create a situation where we put more people in danger.

This is not about security for the citizens of D.C. This, quite frankly, is about insecurity. What this amendment is is one big fat wet kiss to the National Rifle Association.

At this point, Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia, Ms. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, before I use my time, I would like to insert in the Record a statement by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; a statement by Stop Handgun Violence; a letter signed by a number of religious organizations opposed to the Childers amendment; and a letter from D.C. Vote, which includes the D.C. Republican Committee, which opposes the Childers amendment.

Childers Amendment Would Repeal D.C. Gun Laws, Endanger Public Safety and Threaten Homeland Security

The House may soon consider legislation concerning D.C. gun laws. We support H.R. 6842, the bipartisan Norton/Issa bill to require that D.C. conform its laws to the Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller. The D.C. Council is already in the process of amending its gun laws in response to Heller, and this bill requires D.C. to act within 180 days.

A dangerous NRA-backed amendment, proposed by Rep. Childers, would repeal D.C. gun laws and go far beyond authorizing gun possession for self-defense in the home. The amendment is based on H.R. 6691, a reckless bill so broad it even would have allowed the carrying of assault rifles on D.C. streets. After the NRA repeatedly claimed that nothing in H.R. 6691 ``would allow people to carry loaded firearms outside of their home,'' it apparently agreed to undo dangerous provisions that did in fact allow the carrying of assault rifles in public. Yet the rest of the Childers amendment remains almost identical to H.R. 6691--it still undermines gun laws and endangers homeland security.

After repeatedly misleading Congress about the scope of H.R. 6691, the NRA has no credibility on this issue. Last week, the NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, was quoted repeatedly stating that the bill would not allow the open carrying of assault weapons, and ridiculing those who claimed otherwise. The NRA has now implicitly conceded that its repeated prior statements were false, as the revisions are aimed at a problem that the NRA claimed did not exist. Either the NRA was intentionally misleading Congress and the public about the bill, or it did not understand what its top legislative priority would do. It is hard to know which is worse.

The NRA-backed Childers amendment still creates serious threats to public safety and homeland security by allowing dangerous persons to stockpile semiautomatic assault weapons with high capacity ammunition magazines in D.C., undermining federal laws to curtail gun trafficking, and prohibiting D.C. from passing laws that could ``discourage'' gun possession or use, even basic safe storage requirements or age limits for the possession of assault rifles. We oppose the dangerous Childers amendment to H.R. 6842.

BACKGROUND

H.R. 6691 was introduced following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that D.C.'s ban on handguns in the home for self-defense was unconstitutional. Justice Scalia's majority opinion in Heller, however, was narrow and limited. He specifically noted that a wide range of gun laws are ``presumptively lawful''--everything from laws ``forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places'' to ``conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.''

After Heller, D.C. passed temporary, emergency regulations to comply with the Supreme Court ruling, and the plaintiff in the case, Dick Heller, was approved by the city to keep a gun in his home. D.C. is currently developing permanent regulations to adapt all of its gun laws to the Court's ruling. Yet instead of giving D.C.'s elected officials a fair and reasonable opportunity to enact permanent regulations, the gun lobby is pushing Congress to enact dangerous and sweeping legislation that goes far beyond the mandates of Heller.

Even though the bipartisan Norton/Issa bill to require D.C. to conform to Heller was supported by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform by a 21-1 vote, the gun lobby is still pushing for a broad repeal of D.C. gun laws. It now supports the Childers amendment to H.R. 6842, which would bar the city from enacting measures to curb gun crime and weaken federal anti-gun trafficking laws.

The Childers amendment would endanger not only D.C. residents but also all those who work in and visit the capital. At a time when terrorists continue to look for ways to attack our nation, passing this amendment would be reckless and irresponsible. Congress should reject the dangerous Childers amendment.

DETAILS OF CHILDERS AMENDMENT TO H.R. 6842

Allowing stockpiling of military-style weapons with high capacity ammunition magazines--The Childers amendment would repeal D.C.'s ban on semi-automatic weapons, including assault weapons (4). It would also prohibit D.C. from enacting laws discouraging gun use or possession, such as restrictions on military-style weapons (3). It thus allows the stockpiling of military-style semiautomatic assault rifles or .50 caliber sniper rifles that can pierce armored car plating. It would even allow teenagers and children to possess loaded assault rifles by repealing all age restrictions on the possession of long guns (5(b)(1)). This means that law enforcement could not stop dangerous persons from stockpiling assault rifles or .50 caliber sniper rifles in homes or businesses near federal buildings or motorcade routes.

Undermining federal anti-gun trafficking laws--The Childers amendment would allow D.C. residents to cross state lines to buy handguns in neighboring states, thereby undermining federal anti-trafficking laws (10). For decades, federal law has barred gun dealers from selling handguns directly to out of state buyers (other than licensed dealers) because of the high risk this creates for interstate gun trafficking (18 U.S.C. 922(b)(3)). This means that gun traffickers could more easily obtain large quantities of guns outside D.C. to illegally distribute to criminals in D.C.

Prohibiting D.C. from enacting common sense gun laws--The Childers amendment would bar D.C. from passing any law that would ``prohibit, constructively prohibit, or unduly burden'' gun ownership by anyone not barred by already weak federal gun laws (3). It would even bar D.C. from enacting laws or regulations that may ``discourage'' private gun ownership or use, including by felons, children or other dangerous persons (Id.). This means that D.C. could not pass laws requiring shooting proficiency to use a gun, educating parents of the dangers to children of guns in the home, or even restricting gang members without criminal records from possessing assault rifles.

Repealing common sense restrictions on gun possession by dangerous or unqualified persons--The Childers amendment repeals common sense restrictions on gun possession in D.C. including:

Repealing the prohibition on most persons under age 21 from possessing firearms (5(b)(1)). It replaces current D.C. law with weaker federal limits that only bar anyone under 18 from possessing handguns (18 U.S.C. 922(x)), and it repeals all age limits for the possession and carrying of long guns, including assault rifles.

Repealing the prohibition on gun possession by anyone who has committed a violent crime or recent drug crime (5(b)(1)). It replaces this current D.C. law with the weaker federal ban that allows gun possession by many persons who have committed violent or drug-related misdemeanor crimes unrelated to domestic violence.

Repealing the prohibition on gun possession by anyone voluntarily committed to a mental institution in the last 5 years (unless they have a doctor's certification) (5(b)(1)). It replaces this current D.C. law with the weaker federal ban that allows many persons who are dangerously mentally ill to obtain firearms.

Repealing the prohibition in D.C. law on gun possession by anyone who does not pass a vision test, including if they are blind (5(b)(1)). D.C. would be barred from having any vision requirement for gun use.

Repealing registration requirements for firearms--The Childers amendment repeals even the most basic gun registration requirements (5). This means that police could no longer easily trace crime guns by tracing them to their registered owner.

Repealing all safe storage laws--After Heller, D.C. passed emergency legislation allowing guns to be unlocked for self-defense but otherwise locked to keep guns from children and dangerous persons. The Childers amendment repeals all safe storage requirements and prohibits D.C. from enacting new safe storage laws, even though every major gun maker recommends that guns be kept unloaded and locked (3, 7). This means that D.C. could not prohibit people from storing loaded firearms near children, posing an extreme danger to the safety of D.C. families.

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The Facts

5 children were killed every day in gun related accidents and suicides committed with a firearm, from 1994-1998.

An average of 5 children were killed every day in gun related accidents and suicides committed with a firearm, from 1994-1998. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, National Injury Mortality Statistics, 1994-1998.

40% of American households with children have guns. Peter Hart Research Associates Poll, July 1999.

22 million children live in homes with at least one firearm. 34% of children in the United States (representing more than 22 million children in 11 million homes) live in homes with at least one firearm. In 69 percent of homes with firearms and children, more than one firearm is present. The RAND Corporation, ``Guns in the Family: Firearm Storage Patterns in U.S. Homes with Children,'' March 2001, an analysis of the 1994 National Health Interview Survey and Year 2000 objectives supplement. Also published as Schuster et al., ``Firearm Storage Patterns in U.S. Homes with Children,'' American Journal of Public Health 90(4): 588-594, April 2000.

A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting, than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.

A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting, a criminal assault or homicide, or an attempted or completed suicide than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense. Journal of Trauma, 1998.

In 1997, gunshot wounds were the second leading cause of injury death for men and women 10-24 years of age.

In 1997, gunshot wounds were the second leading cause of injury death for men and women 10-24 years of age--second only to motor vehicle crashes--while the firearm injury death rate among males 15-24 years of age was 42% higher than the motor vehicle traffic injury death rate. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 1999.

In the U.S., children under 15 commit suicide with guns at a rate of eleven times the rate of other countries combined.

For children under the age of 15, the rate of suicide in the United States is twice the rate of other countries. For suicides involving firearms, the rate was almost eleven times the rate of other countries combined. U.S. Department of Justice, March 2000.

Guns in the home are the primary source for firearms that teenagers use to kill themselves in the United States.

Studies show that guns in the home are the primary source for firearms that teenagers use to kill themselves. Injury Prevention, 1999.

85% of Americans want mandatory handgun registration.

85% of Americans endorse the mandatory registration of handguns and 72% also want mandatory registration of longguns (rifles and shotguns). 1998 National Gun Policy Survey of the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago.

85% of Americans want a background check and 5-day waiting period before a handgun is purchased.

85% of Americans want a background check and 5-day waiting period before a handgun is purchased. 1998 National Gun Policy Survey of the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago.

95% of Americans think that U.S. made handguns should meet the same safety standards as imported guns.

95% of Americans favor having handguns manufactured in the United States meet the same safety and quality standards that imported guns must meet. 1998 National Gun Policy Survey of the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago.

51% of the guns used in crimes by juveniles and people 18 to 24 were acquired by ``straw purchasers,'' people who buy several guns legally through licensed dealers, then sell them to criminals, violent offenders, and kids.

51% of the guns used in crimes by juveniles and people 18 to 24 were acquired by ``straw purchasers,'' people who buy several guns legally through licensed dealers, then sell them to criminals, violent offenders, and kids. ATF report, Crime Gun Trace Analysis, February 1999.

More Americans were killed by guns than by war in the 20th Century.

More Americans were killed with guns in the 18-year period between 1979 and 1997 (651,697), than were killed in battle in all wars since 1775 (650,858). And while a sharp drop in gun homicides has contributed to a decline in overall gun deaths since 1993, the 90's will likely exceed the death toll of the 1980s (327,173) and end up being the deadliest decade of the century. By the end of the 1990s, an estimated 350,000 Americans will have been killed in non-military-related firearm incidents during the decade. Handgun Control 12/30/99 (Press release from CDC data).

A classroom is emptied every two days in America by gunfire. In 1998, 3,792 American children and teens (19 and under) died by gunfire in murders, suicides and unintentional shootings. That's more than 10 young people a day. Unpublished data from the Vital Statistics System, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2000.

Toy guns and teddy bears have more federal manufacturing regulations than real guns. Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics, Deaths: Final Data for 1999. NVSR Volume 49, No. 8. 114 pp. (PHS) 2001-1120.

Every day 79 people are killed by firearms in America. In 1999 a total of 28,874 persons died from firearm injuries in the United States, down nearly 6 percent from the 30,625 deaths in 1998.

88% of the US population and 80% of U.S. gun owners support childproofing all new handguns. 88% of the U.S. population and 80% of U.S. gun owners support childproofing all new handguns.

Johns Hopkins University Center of Gun Policy and Research, 1997/1998.

Kids in America are 12 times more likely to be killed by a gun than kids in 25 other industrialized nations combined. The overall firearm-related death rate among U.S. children aged less than 15 years was nearly 12 times higher than among children in 25 other industrialized countries combined. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ``Rates of Homicide, Suicide, and Firearm-Related Death Among Children--26 Industrialized Countries,'' Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 46(05): 101-105, February 07, 1997.

Guns stored in the home are used 72% of the time when children are accidentally killed and injured, commit suicide with a firearm. In 72% of unintentional deaths and injuries, suicide, and suicide attempts with a firearm of 0-19 year-olds, the firearm was stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend. Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center Study, Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, August 1999.

Medical costs from gun injuries and deaths cost $19 billion. The U.S. taxpayer will pay half of that cost. Direct medical costs for firearm injuries range from $2.3 billion to $4 billion, and additional indirect costs, such as lost potential earnings, are estimated at $19.0 billion. Miller and Cohen, Textbook of Penetrating Trauma, 1995; American Academy of Pediatrics, 2000; Journal of American Medical Association, June 1995; Annals of Internal Medicine, 1998.

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