House passes gun bill

The House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would eliminate virtually all of the District’s gun restrictions.

The bill, titled the D.C. Personal Protection Act, would repeal a ban on handguns and semiautomatic weapons put into place by the D.C. City Council in 1976. Passed by a 250-171 vote, the bill would also relax gun and ammunition registration requirements and decriminalize the possession of unregistered firearms.

It is unclear whether the Senate, which is currently bogged down in debate over intelligence reforms, will take action on the legislation. Even if Senate leadership flags the measure for discussion, both sides are expecting a much more difficult road to passage.

Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) initially proposed the bill in the House in September 2003. It has since garnered the support of 230 co-sponsors. The final vote saw 52 Democrats join 198 Republicans to ensure the legislation’s passage.

Souder cites Second Amendment rights and the District’s homicide rate as motivation for introducing the legislation.

“The District of Columbia has the most restrictive gun legislation in the country,” Souder spokesman Martin Green said.

Green added that the legislation intends to “bring D.C. into compliance” with the Second Amendment. Green also cited D.C.’s status as the “murder capital of the country” to argue that the 1976 City Council legislation has been ineffective.

The bill has been met with fierce opposition from the 13-member City Council, Mayor Anthony Williams and D.C. Congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, all of whom contend that the bill cripples the city’s ability to combat gun violence.

Opponents also argue that Congress is unfairly usurping the District’s right to home rule.

“We have got to fight every intrusion into our self-government and most especially when the violation of our rights also risks the lives of our children, our residents, our 200,000 federal workers and our 20 million visitors annually,” Norton said in a written statement.

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