On May 17, 2012, the House of Representatives approved by a voice vote an amendment from Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) to H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, that would express a sense of Congress that active duty military personnel who either live in or are stationed in Washington, D.C., would be exempt from existing District of Columbia firearms restrictions. Rep. Gingrey expects this to allow 40,000 active duty military personnel in the Washington metropolitan area to freely carry their firearms in the District. The House passed the entire bill 299 to 120.
D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton rose in strong opposition to this amendment noting that "(t)he amendment reflects a pattern by Republicans in the 112th Congress of singling out the District of Columbia for unique treatment and outright bullying." For the full text of the amendment and Rep. Gingrey's and her full remarks, read more.
(8) On February 26, 2009, the United States Senate adopted an amendment on a bipartisan vote of 62-36 by Senator John Ensign to S. 160, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, which would fully restore Second Amendment rights to the citizens of the District of Columbia.
(b) Sense of Congress.--It is the sense of Congress that active duty military personnel who are stationed or residing in the District of Columbia should be permitted to exercise fully their rights under the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and therefore should be exempt from the District of Columbia's restrictions on the possession of firearms.
The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 661, the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Georgia.
Mr. GINGREY of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I rise tonight to urge my colleagues to support my nonbinding amendment, No. 39, which would express the sense of Congress that active duty military personnel who live in or are stationed in Washington, D.C. should be exempt from existing District of Columbia firearm restrictions.
Mr. Chairman, it is no secret that the District of Columbia has historically had some of the most restrictive firearm regulations in the Nation. In fact, in June of 2008, the Supreme Court--in the District of Columbia v. Heller case--ruled that the District's handgun ban and requirements that rifles and shotguns in the home be kept unloaded and disassembled or outfitted with a trigger lock is unconstitutional. In that decision it also said that the Second Amendment is applicable to an individual, not just a militia.
Well, just 1 month later, the District of Columbia enacted the Firearms Control Emergency Amendment Act of 2008, which places onerous restrictions on the ability of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms, thus violating the spirit, if not the letter, by which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in D.C. v. Heller.
Mr. Chairman, there are approximately 40,000 servicemen and -women across all branches of the Armed Forces that either live in or they're stationed on active duty within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Indeed, many of them are stationed at the Pentagon. Unless these individuals are granted a waiver as serving in a law enforcement role, they are subject to the District of Columbia's onerous and highly restrictive laws on the possession of firearms.
Mr. Chairman, there are servicemen and -women who have been prosecuted because of this unconstitutional prohibition, despite their training in the use of firearms. This is a travesty. Studies have clearly shown that firearms are a crime deterrent. The de facto handgun ban leaves law-abiding citizens unable to protect themselves from violent acts or individuals breaking the law.
This amendment recognizes that the D.C. handgun law, especially in regard to trained servicemen and -women, punishes individuals well equipped to protect themselves and others while emboldening perpetrators of violent crime. Mr. Chairman, if we trust these brave men and women to defend our country, why do we not trust them to legally exercise their Second Amendment rights?
I would like to note that the NRA is supportive of my amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Chairman, I rise to claim the time in opposition.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentlewoman from the District of Columbia is recognized for 5 minutes.
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to amendment No. 39. The amendment reflects a pattern by Republicans in the 112th Congress of singling out the District of Columbia for unique treatment and outright bullying.
There is no Federal law that exempts active military personnel in their personal capacities from otherwise applicable Federal firearms laws, except with respect to residency requirements, or from any State or local firearms laws. Yet the amendment expresses the sense of Congress that active duty personnel in their personal capacities should be exempt from gun laws only in one jurisdiction, the District of Columbia.
If the gentleman on the other side who sponsored this amendment believes that active duty personnel should be exempt from Federal, State, or local firearms laws, why did he not offer an amendment that would apply nationwide? Perhaps he did not offer such an amendment for the same reason that the Republican sponsor of H.R. 3808--to ban abortions for 20 weeks only in the District of Columbia, on which the House Judiciary Committee on the Constitution held a hearing today--did not introduce that same 20-week bill to apply nationwide. Or perhaps Republicans pick on the District because they think they can.
The proponents of this amendment, as well as the D.C. gun bill which would eliminate D.C.'s gun laws, live in the past, acting as if the changes the District has made in its gun laws after the Supreme Court Heller decision in 2008 had not happened, and as if a Federal district court and a Federal appeals court had not already upheld the constitutionality of the District's new gun laws. They act as if the Supreme Court's McDonald decisions in 2010 had never occurred.
In McDonald, the Court said that the Second Amendment does not confer ``the right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.''
This amendment represents the third attack by this Congress on the District's gun safety laws. Although the amendment is nonbinding, we will fight every attack on our rights as a local government, particularly when we are singled out for unequal treatment.
This amendment does nothing less than attempt to pave the way for actual inroads into the District's new gun safety laws. Republicans have been trying, this week, to use the District of Columbia to move issues they dare not propose for the Nation at large, instead of focusing on jobs. And our allies, our city, and I have spent the week fighting back equally hard.
The majority can expect a fierce fight from us whenever a bill degrades our citizens and treats them in any way as second-class citizens, as this bill proposes to do this very evening.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. GINGREY of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, can I ask how much time I have remaining.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Georgia has 3 minutes.
Mr. GINGREY of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I remind the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia that, first and foremost, this is a sense of Congress resolution, nonbinding resolution. It's not to be, in my opinion, Mr. Chairman, confused with any other ban or amendment that she referenced. It's certainly not to be confused with H.R. 645, a bill that would eliminate D.C.'s gun safety laws, which she was so concerned about in the last couple of years.
This is just simply saying, very clearly, Mr. Chairman, and especially to the governing body, the City Council and Mayor of the District of Columbia, look, we want to help you. We are recommending that you take this action. We're not forcing you to do this.
This is, again, as I say, a nonbinding resolution. It is just the sense of Congress, which, after all, has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia. We want to say to the governing body, we think it's a darn good idea for you to enact this waiver for these military men and women, 40,000 of them, as I say, stationed either in D.C., at the Pentagon, at Fort Myer in Virginia or Maryland, that have the ability and the training, the necessary judgment and mentality to actually help the 500,000 residents of the District of Columbia.
I don't think that my colleague and any colleagues on the other side of the aisle who might be in opposition to this, I think that opposition is misguided. They're missing an opportunity to support something that would be good, indeed, good for the safety of the people of the District of Columbia.
If we criminalize the possession of firearms, then it might be a trite and hackneyed expression, but only criminals then would have the right to bear arms.
Now, this bill that the District of Columbia passed in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision, Heller v. District of Columbia, that upheld the Second Amendment rights for individuals and said that what law existed in the District of Columbia was unconstitutional.
So they come up with some arcane, very difficult, almost impossible rules and regulations in regard to the possession of firearms so that they, de facto, make it impossible. So I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, support this amendment, sense of Congress, nonbinding.
I yield back the balance of my time.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentlewoman has 45 seconds remaining.
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Chair, if this is such a benign amendment for the good of the District of Columbia, I can't imagine why the gentleman hasn't offered it for the Nation at large. Why help us when we haven't asked for your help? Why not help everybody?
Why not help people in Virginia? More of the Members of our Armed Services pass through Virginia than pass through the District of Columbia.
You don't want to help us. Nobody on that side has helped us this year. If you want to help us, come ask me first, and I'll tell you what kind of help we need.
I yield back the balance of my time.
The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Georgia (Mr.Gingrey).
The amendment was agreed to.