From the first day after the Supreme Court affirmed that the right to keep and bear arms extended beyond the formation of a militia, but allowed jurisdictions to impose reasonable restrictions in the District of Columbia v. Heller, we warned the D.C. Council that they should pass very clear and simple gun regulations, lest they leave themselves sway to the whims of Congress.
That is exactly what happened last month when Reps. Mike Ross, Arkansas Democrat, and Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, slipped in a bill just before the recess severely limiting Mayor Adrian Fenty and the city council’s ability to legislate gun policy except in the most extreme cases. It must have been a bitter pill for council members to swallow, to know that it was not a member of the so-called National Rifle Association‘s right-wing conspiracy who authored the bill, but a pro-gun-rights Democrat in his fourth term.
The bill essentially removed every restriction the District passed in its emergency legislation - trigger locks, maintaining the ban on semi-automatic pistols, ballistic imprinting of every gun registered, restricting one’s ability to carry a gun, and registration. The reason was obvious: the regulations were tailored to discourage to the point of infringement the ownership of guns.
We appreciate Mr. Ross putting the city council in its place. And that is exactly what he and Mr. Souder did, by using the 1906 “Act to prohibit the killing of wild birds and wild animals in the District of Columbia” to make their point. The bill was obviously never going to pass or even reach the House floor under a Democratic-controlled Congress and likely not even under a Republican one. But it made clear the point, that the jurisdiction’s right to restrict gun ownership is and should be as limited as possible.
Now D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has been put in a terrible position of demonizing a bill that was only authored to prove a point. She has called the bill a vast NRA conspiracy to violate Home Rule. “When the city gets stopped before it gets started, no public purpose is served,” she said arguing that the council has not finished drafting its final regulations.
The truth is no one was trying to stop the council so much as warn them that someone is looking over their shoulder.