The House of Representatives passed an amendment Wednesday that would prevent the District of Columbia from spending funds to enforce local gun laws -- including registration and fingerprint requirements for gun owners.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) offered the amendment to the House appropriations bill which directly controls the spending for D.C., and the freshman representative saw this as a finite window to address gun rights.
"The genesis was the opportunity -- it was a limitation amendment on the appropriations bill. This amendment process gives rank and file members the opportunity to introduce legislation if they can't get it to the floor through committee, so this was an opportunity for me to bring up the gun issue," Massie told TheBlaze.
During his floor speech, Massie noted the startling gun violence statistics in the nation's capitol.
"There is only one year after D.C.'s handgun ban went into effect in 1977 where its murder rate was as low as it was prior to the ban. D.C.'s murder rate rose dramatically relative to other cities, with its murder rate ranking either number 1 or 2 among the 50 most populous U.S. cities for half the time that the ban was in effect and in the top for two-thirds of the time," he said.
[sharequote align="center"]"Every place in the world that has banned guns has seen an increase in murder rates.”[/sharequote]
"However, as soon as the ban and, more importantly, the gunlock regulations were struck down in 2008 the murder rate fell, dropping by 50 percent over the next four years. Indeed, every place in the world that has banned guns has seen an increase in murder rates.”
Massie also said he offered the amendment to give freshmen members of the house a chance to vote on a piece of gun legislation in their first terms in Congress.
"This was an opportunity to restore gun rights to a segment of the population, and I took it," Massie told TheBlaze. "This is one of the foremost planks in my platform -- the right to keep and bear arms -- and I've been in Congress for almost two years now and haven't even had a chance to vote on a piece of gun legislation. I wanted to provide an opportunity for all the freshmen in Congress who have been as frustrated as I have that, even though we have a Republican Congress, haven't had any gun legislation on the floor."
When the time came for a vote on the amendment, Democrats offered to allow it to pass by voice vote, which means individual votes would not be recorded.
"I declined their generous offer," Massie said with a laugh. "I thought it was important to give everyone an opportunity to weigh in on this issue."
The House approved the amendment 241 to 181, with 20 democratic yea votes, and subsequently passed the amended underlying appropriations bill HR 5016 -- which includes the District of Columbia's budget -- with a 228-195 vote.
Massie said he was expecting to get a few democrats to support the amendment, but was pleasantly surprised to see a full 20 sign on.
"I expected a few who are in vulnerable districts facing tough reelections to support the amendment, but I was pleasantly surprised to see at least two democrats who aren't up for reelection, and who aren't coming back to Congress (Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre from North Carolina) vote for the amendment," he said.
D.C.'s gun laws are some of the strictest in the country; a litany of laws are on the books that make it difficult to obtain certain firearms, impossible to obtain others, and illegal to carry any loaded gun in the city. And according to a list compiled by ABC News, even those who already own a gun will have serious hoops to jump through just to bring their weapon to their own homes:
- Carrying a concealed weapon in D.C. is illegal.
- Carrying a weapon openly is illegal.
- You can be arrested and your firearm confiscated if you stop in DC for any reason with a firearm from out of state.
- Transporting any loaded gun in a vehicle in DC is illegal. Guns are required to be unloaded and unable to be accessed by the driver. The firearm or ammunition cannot be stored in the glove compartment or console.
- Gun free zones include day care centers, schools, universities, public swimming pools, video arcades, or youth centers. Carrying a gun into a gun-free zone carries a fine or can result in imprisonment.
Massie also compared D.C.'s gun laws to a favorite Democrat argument about voter card identification cards.
"Democrats often complain that requiring people to provide a photo ID to vote disproportionally disenfranchises minorities from their right to vote, yet many of them are comfortable disenfranchising minorities from the right to keep and bear arms because the District of Columbia has gun laws that require invasive fingerprinting, photographing and registering -- which if what they say is true about voting is double true for D.C.'s gun laws," he said.
According to the Washington Post, D.C.s Congressional Delagate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who does not have voting authority in Congress, was wholeheartedly displeased with Massie's amendment.
“It’s a flagrant abuse of democracy by a member who comes here with a tea party principle that says power should be devolved to the local level,” said Norton, and said Massie was “playing with the lives” of city residents, federal officials and visitors to the city.
The overall bill and it's amendments will now be subject to negotiation with Senate Democrats.
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.