Home Issues D.C. Council Actions Voting Rights D.C. Council: “CLEAR MESSAGE: GIVE US A CLEAN BILL WITH NO GUNS ATTACHED,OR KEEP YOUR VOTE!"
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D.C. Council: “CLEAR MESSAGE: GIVE US A CLEAN BILL WITH NO GUNS ATTACHED,OR KEEP YOUR VOTE!" E-mail
Council of the District of Columbia
 _______ Office of At-Large Councilmember Michael A. Brown_______
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW ~ Suite 406
Washington, DC 20004
 
                        PRESS RELEASE
 
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009                                                                                                                                                                 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
                                                     
 CLEAR MESSAGE: GIVE US A CLEAN BILL WITH NO GUNS ATTACHED,
OR KEEP YOUR VOTE!”
“Dozens of Witnesses Voiced Opposition to DC Voting Rights Bill with Gun Amendment at
 Public Roundtable Hailed As Most Inclusive”
 
Washington, DC – Last night, constitutional law scholars, advocates for victims of gun violence, elected officials, DC statehood/voting rights advocates, and DC residents packed the John A. Wilson Council Chambers to testify before the DC Council Special Committee on Statehood and Self-Determination, chaired by Councilmember Michael A. Brown (At-Large) and Committee members Yvette Alexander (Ward 7), Mary Cheh (Ward 3) and Kwame Brown (At-Large). Other officials in attendance were Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray and At-Large member Phil Mendelson.
 
More than 100 persons attended last night’s hearing, many remained past midnight. Nearly half of them were witnesses, who were from every ward of the city and a few from nearby Maryland and Virginia. Motivated by the fight for democracy and the recent acts of gun violence across the country, including the tragic shooting incidents in Los Angeles, CA, Binghamton, NY and Pittsburgh, PA that resulted in the deaths of 19, the witnesses added their voice to the public record concerning the DC House Voting Rights Act of 2009 and a pro-gun amendment.
 
Prior to the hearing, Councilmember Michael Brown expressed optimism about receiving input from diverse perspectives on the DC Voting Rights bill and the attached gun amendment. He said, By listening to and learning from diverse viewpoints on this issue, I’m confident that the Roundtable will provide us with valuable insight and information as we develop a unified position on the pending voting rights legislation.
 
The various testimonies presented ranged from “no voting rights at the expense of gun control,” to “voting rights with gun control,” to “no voting rights, only full statehood,” Brown added another possibility, “voting rights bill with a watered down gun amendment.”  “This option takes into account the political reality that until we are a state, Congress can and will attach a gun amendment to any piece of legislation,” said Brown.
 
Councilmembers and witnesses alike made impassioned statements at the Roundtable, some invoking the words of American patriot, Patrick Henry. Councilmember Mary Cheh, a constitutional law professor, who serves on the Special Statehood Committee, quoted Henry, saying “If life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God, I know not what course others might take; but as for me, give me Liberty or give me death!”  She drew a comparison between the political deprivations suffered by the early Americans at the hands of the British, and residents of the District, who she noted, today are still plagued by taxation without representation.
 
Council Chairman Vincent Gray, in speaking about the egregiousness of the District’s lack of voting rights,questioned the Mayor’s proposal to eliminate funding for the District’s Emancipation Day as a public holiday as opposed to boycotting the July 4th Holiday. A boycott would send a clear signal to the nation and the world that residents of the nation’s capital have yet to enjoy the freedoms won by the rest of America, said Gray.”
 
Manus Cooney, a constitutional law scholar, and former chief of staff for the Senate Judiciary Committee, under Republican Orrin Hatch (UT), counseled that the District did not need a constitutional amendment to free itself of taxation without representation.  Instead, Cooney concurred with statehood advocates that the clearest path for DC self determination was a three step process involving: (1) redefining the federal enclave which would consist of only the federal buildings around the National Mall area and White House, with its only residents being the President and his family; (2) creating a new federal territory consisting of the rest of the District’s residential, business, and other areas; and (3) petitioning Congress for that territory to become a state, the same as the process followed by the last states into the Union, Hawaii and Alaska.
 
A surprise witness at the hearing was Dick Heller, the Respondent in the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down DC’s decades old ban on handguns.  While maintaining his vehement opposition to most restrictions on the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, Heller said he was “neutral” on the Ensign pro-gun amendment. However, Heller acknowledged his qualified support of DC statehood and self- determination and even testified that his favorite person was the late civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
 
Chairman Brown, energized by the momentum from Tuesday’s 5 1/2 hour hearing announced, “I have had conversations with Attorney General Eric Holder, Delegate Norton, Congressman Hoyer, and many of today’s panelists regarding the future of the voting rights legislation.  All along I’ve sought to find out how best to move forward to ensure greater democracy for the residents of the District of Columbia, while not compromising our safety, security, and limited ability to govern ourselves. Tonight, what I’m hearing is a loud and clear message: District residents are unwilling to trade a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives for guns on our streets.”
 
The hearing was hailed by longtime statehood activist Sam Jordon as the most inclusive statehood/voting rights hearing to date. Brown believes that given the wide array of opinions offered at the Public Oversight Roundtable, he and his colleagues on the Council now have a sufficient record to shape a District-wide position on the DC voting rights bill now pending in Congress.
 
The clear message from the hearing, as succinctly stated by Keshini Ladduwahetty, Chair of DC for Democracy, was “if the gun rider isn’t removed, let the legislation die!”

 
Home Issues D.C. Council Actions Voting Rights D.C. Council: “CLEAR MESSAGE: GIVE US A CLEAN BILL WITH NO GUNS ATTACHED,OR KEEP YOUR VOTE!"

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