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House votes to ease D.C. gun rules

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The House voted this morning to allow District residents to buy and own firearms, including semiautomatic weapons, despite claims from critics the action tramples the District's right to self govern.

The measure, approved by a vote of 260-160, comes a day after the D.C. Council approved its own legislation to loosen the city's gun ownership laws.

The House vote is unlikely to immediately impact gun ownership in the District, as the Senate hasn't scheduled debate on the measure, which could be postponed until next year.

The National Riffle Association and other pro-gun advocates complained the District ordinance didn't go far enough and said council members passed the law only to give the appearance they are complying with a Supreme Court decision in June that struck down the city's decades-old ban on handguns.

The House measure, sponsored by Rep. Travis Childers, a conservative Mississippi Democrat, which was backed by other conservative pro-gun Democrats, as well as most Republicans.

"Number one, I'm a pro-gun Democrat," said Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, a leader of the Blue Dog conservative Democratic coalition. "Number 2, if the government of the District of Columbia can take your guns away from you in our nation's capital, Prescott, Arkansas, and many other small towns across the country could be next."

But critics of Mr. Childer's bill accuse Democratic supporters of abandoning their party's long standing position of self-rule in an attempt to pander to the pro-gun lobby.

"The citizens of the District should have the right to govern themselves, that is what's at stake here," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.