Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

June 11, 2009


The effort to get a toy vote in the House for DC has floundered after the measure was tied to a reinstitution of the Second Amendment in the capital. The development is not a loss as it would have had virtually no impact on the city's status, unlike DC statehood, but it was pushed by those who wanted to distract locals from the real issues of self government and bury statehood. Liberals were furious about the gun provision even though DC has proved the ineffectiveness of many gun laws. In fact, the overwhelming cause of the increase in gun violence in DC - which came after the institution of a major gun law - was the war on drugs.

Washington Post, 2007 - Three decades ago, at the dawn of municipal self-government in the District, the city's first elected mayor and council enacted one of the country's toughest gun-control measures, a ban on handgun ownership that opponents have long said violates the Second Amendment. . . Over the years, gun violence has continued to plague the city, reaching staggering levels at times. . .

In 1977, the first full year of the ban, the city recorded 192 homicides, a rate of 28 per 100,000 residents. The total rose to 223 in 1981 (a 35 rate), then fell to 147 (a 23.5 rate) in 1985 -- the lowest annual homicide toll in the District since 1966. At the time, the rate for the country as a whole also was trending down.

Which turned out to be the calm before the slaughter.

The advent of the lucrative crack-cocaine market and the unprecedented street violence it unleashed in poor neighborhoods nationwide sent homicide rates soaring in the latter half of the 1980s. Not only did the number of killings surge in the District, as it did in most urban areas, the homicide rates here also far exceeded the rates in crack-ridden cities where handguns had not been banned.

In the peak killing year, 1991, the District recorded 482 homicides, or 81 per 100,000 residents, more than triple the 1985 rate. And more than ever, as the city became known as "the nation's murder capital," the gun was the weapon of choice. In 1985, firearms had been used in 65 percent of D.C. homicides. In 1991, they were used in eight out of 10 slayings.

Gary Imhoff, DC Watch - Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has killed the DC Voting Rights Act, having decided that it is more important to deny citizens of the District their Second Amendment rights than it is for her to have a vote on the floor of the House. That is a decision for her to make; she knows best how important it really is for her to have a floor vote in addition to her committee votes. If the Act is more about symbolism than it is about real power in Congress, then it makes sense for her to put her other policy goals ahead of getting a floor vote. What doesn't make sense is for groups that advocate more voting power for the District to support Del. Norton's decision to pull the bill.

There are many single-issue groups that support national voting rights for District citizens and/or statehood for the District of Columbia, yet not one group has protested Norton's decision. With this bill, the District could have had full Second Amendment rights soon, without the years of resistance and court battles that are ahead, and could have had a floor vote for its representative in the House of Representatives. But all of the voting rights groups that have made any public statement on Norton's killing the bill have said that it is more important to fight against Second Amendment rights than to gain voting rights. If that's true, then what are they doing wasting their time on voting rights, when they could be spending full time fighting against the right to keep and bear arms?

By the way, today nearly every elected official issued nearly identical, ugly, self-serving press releases exploiting the shooting at the Holocaust Museum to promote their anti-Second Amendment agenda. The logic of all the press releases is that, since today's shooting shows that DC's gun ban does nothing to deter or prevent a nut from committing a senseless killing, it's more important than ever for DC to increase its support for its gun ban.


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