Republicans are trying to ensure the District respects the full constitutional rights of our military personnel.
The House this week is expected to take up a measure by Rep. Phil Gringrey, Georgia Republican, expressing the sense of Congress that the approximately 40,000 active-duty military personnel who live in or are stationed in Washington should be exempt from local firearms restrictions. While the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act would not be binding, it adds to the mounting pressure on the liberal D.C. Council to consider allowing carry rights.
The nation’s capital does not recognize the Second Amendment right to bear arms, creating the absurd situation where a member of the armed forces - whose job it is to carry a gun - can be put in jail for doing so. That’s what happened to Army National Guard 1st Lt. Augustine Kim.
The injured vet, who served two tours in Afghanistan and is preparing to deploy to Kosovo, had his personal firearms collection seized by the city two years ago as he stopped for a doctor’s appointment while traveling in full compliance with federal law. Though all charges against him were eventually dropped, the city refuses to return his property to him in South Carolina. The case is putting D.C.’s anti-gun policies in the national spotlight.
South Carolina’s congressional delegation is up in arms. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a gun owner and hunter, fired off a letter to Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier on Thursday, saying that he would, “strongly encourage you to return the firearms to Lt. Kim’s possession as soon as possible.”
Mr. Graham, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, hand wrote in all capital letters at the bottom: “PLEASE LET US KNOW SOON!” He also spoke to the police chief by phone Thursday. Fellow Palmetto State Sen. Jim DeMint had his staff confer with the lieutenant by phone on Thursday night.
Rep. Tim Scott is also fighting for his constituent. “Lt. Kim has and continues to serve our country with honor, and it is unfortunate he has been forced into this situation,” the freshman Republican told The Washington Times. “My staff and I will continue drilling to the core of this matter, and I am hopeful for a quick resolution before the lieutenant leaves to serve our nation once again this summer.”
For his part, the 28-year-old tank platoon leader bears no grudges over the night he spent in a D.C. jail or over the legal fees he has paid. His only complaint is that the city failed to return his property after he held up his end of a plea bargain.
The AR-15 rifle, upper receiver groups, pistols and various parts in the District’s possession have had a significant amount of custom work done, and Lt. Kim says replacing them would cost more than $10,000. With Congress now engaged, Chief Lanier could save herself a lot of trouble by admitting the mistake and returning what isn’t hers.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.