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MILLER: House votes to exempt military from D.C. gun laws

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The House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution Friday that expresses the sense of Congress that active duty military living or stationed in the District of Columbia should have the right to carry a gun. 

The measure sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican, was passed by voice vote as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes the Pentagon’s budget for 2014. Mr. Gingrey has followed my series on active-duty veterans who have been thrown in jail for mere possession of unregistered guns or ammunition.

First Lieutenant Augustine Kim, Sgt. Matthew Corrigan and Spc. Adam Meckler were all arrested in D.C. in the last couple years for inadvertently violating the city’s unique laws, set in place after Heller in order to dissuade legal gun ownership. 

“Our servicemen and women are highly-trained, highly-skilled, and the most professional fighting force in the world,” Gingrey said after the vote about those cases. "That this could happen to our veterans is a travesty. I will continue fighting to protect our Second Amendment rights." 

The resolution says that the 40,000 active duty servicemen and women in Washington deserve a waiver from the city’s “onerous and highly restrictive laws on the possession of firearms.” In December, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Illinois had to allow carry rights s in the state. The legislature passed a statute earlier this month creating a permitting process, which the governor has yet to sign. Nevertheless, the process has left the nation’s capital as the one remaining jurisdiction in America where the right to bear arms is not recognized. 

The House passed this nonbinding resolution last year while I was running a high-profile series on Lt. Augustine Kim, who was arrested while legally transporting his guns through D.C. He took a plea deal, which eventually cleared his record, but the police refused to return his guns. Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, read my account and called Police Chief Cathy Lanier and demanded the guns be returned to the veteran of the war in Afghanistan. 

The House passed the Gingrey amendment on the day in May 2012 that Lt. Kim’s attorney, Richard Gardiner, and I went to the Metropolitan Police Department’s evidence building for a hearing on the stolen guns. The vote demonstrated Congress’s frustration with absurd situation in which a member of the armed forces, whose job is to carry a gun, is thrown in jail for doing so.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton freaked out at the vote last year, saying that, “We will fight every attack on our rights as a local government, particularly when we are singled out for unique treatment.” 

Ms. Holmes should be on notice that as long as the District of Columbia refuses to recognize the constitutional right to bear arms, she and other officials will be singled out for unique treatment by good members of Congress. 

 

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