Friday, May 20, 2005

A fresh move is afoot on Capitol Hill to overturn local gun laws in the District.

“Many people live in the District during the week who are members of Congress and they would like to be able to protect themselves in their homes,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Texas Republican who wrote the D.C. Personal Protection Act of 2005.

Mrs. Hutchison said if the measure passes, she will resume her longtime practice of keeping a handgun in her bedroom.

“Every woman in the District of Columbia should have the ability to protect herself in her home, particularly if she is there alone most of the time,” Mrs. Hutchison said yesterday.

But one lawmaker warned the result could be dire.

“They’re trying to see to it that more children get killed,” said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat.

The District’s nonvoting congressional representative warned that passage of the bill would increase violent crime.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams also spoke out against the bill. “I am incensed by any proposal that is an insult to the memory of the people who have died in this city due to gun violence — in particular the three children who have died from gun violence this year,” he said.

Mrs. Hutchinson’s bill would enable city residents to keep loaded handguns in their homes for personal protection. Most private handgun ownership in the District has been prohibited by law since 1976.

“Crack down on the criminal as opposed to taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican.

“A law-abiding citizen is not going to use a gun to settle a domestic disturbance,” said Mr. Allen, who suggested city residents get gun safety training before acquiring weapons.

“It’s obvious that this experiment in gun control has failed,” said Sen. John Cronyn, Texas Republican.

He and other supporters cited what they said was a 200 percent increase in the homicide rate over the past 29 years as proof that criminals ignore the policy.

In 2004, the District had 198 homicides, the first time in nearly two decades that the total was under 200. It marked a major decline from the gang- and drug-related bloodshed of the 1980s and 1990s.

As of yesterday, police said there were 63 homicides this year, compared with 76 at this time in 2004.

A similar House bill was approved last year and resurrected in the current session.

D.C. officials accused proponents of the measure of pandering to the “gun lobby,” on behalf of the National Rifle Association.

The Metropolitan Police Department has recovered more than 1,000 firearms, up 23 percent from this time last year.

“Revoking D.C.’s gun regulations is like pouring gasoline on smoldering coals,” said Sarah Brady, chairwoman of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Mrs. Brady’s husband, former presidential press secretary James Brady, was disabled by a gunshot wound in the March 30, 1981, assassination attempt on President Reagan in the District.

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