The District’s refusal to recognize the full meaning of the Second Amendment may not last much longer. A Supreme Court decision in 2008 forced Washington to allow residents to keep arms, and now Congress is pressuring the city to recognize the next part of that constitutional mandate: the right to bear them.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refuses to allow a floor vote on the House-passed national-reciprocity, concealed-carry bill because he knows it might actually pass. Sen. Rand Paul is trying to force the Nevada Democrat’s hand. “The Senate shouldn’t be about the majority party cherry-picking what they want to vote on,” Dr. Paul told The Washington Times. “Harry Reid will only vote if he can win.”
Last week, the Kentucky Republican tried to attach amendments granting carry rights in the District to a Democratic bill enabling D.C. politicians to decide how tax dollars are spent. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, canceled the entire bill to avoid a vote on the gun measures. Vulnerable Democrats on the committee representing pro-gun states - such as Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri - could side with the Republican minority and provide the votes to enact concealed-carry rights.
“I think reciprocity could have a chance,” said Dr. Paul. “The bill ended up getting pulled down because they are fearful that it could pass. Now they realize if they want to pass anything on D.C., they have to address my amendments.”
His legislation would allow nonresidents visiting the nation’s capital to have their state’s carry permits recognized by local officials. Another provision allows D.C. residents to purchase their firearms in any state without going through the federal firearms-transfer process, saving time and the $125 fee charged under the current procedure. A new office would be created to facilitate gun purchases and registration.
Currently, the District and Illinois stand alone in banning the bearing of arms outright. This could be legally problematic. A federal court recently ruled in the Woollard case that Maryland’s carry laws were too strict, and the state appealed the ruling. Phil Mendelson, chairman of the D.C. city council, said he would not address the issue until it had made its way through the courts.
“I do think carrying has severe implications for the nation’s capital,” the at-large Democrat told The Washington Times after the ruling in March. “We’re different from Maryland because we have motorcades, the president around town, members of Congress going to the supermarket unescorted.”
Mr. Reid rules the upper chamber’s floor with an iron fist, blocking any legislation that could make Republicans look good or his party look bad. The constitutional right to keep and bear arms is not something that should be discarded so easily. Senate Republicans should demand an up-or-down vote on the national reciprocity bill and Dr. Paul’s D.C. carry law.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.