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Commentary: GOP congressman wants lawmakers exempt from DC gun laws — but there's a better solution

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) proposed exempting federal lawmakers from Washington, D.C.'s concealed carry restriction in the wake of the GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. (Image source: George Frey/Getty Images)

The District of Columbia does not currently allow concealed carry holders from other states to carry in the nation's capital, but one Republican congressman is now seeking to change that. The lawmaker's proposal, however, would only apply to federal lawmakers — not ordinary citizens.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) said after House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot in the hip at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday that lawmakers from states that allow concealed carry — such as Loudermilk's home state of Georgia — should also be allowed to carry a gun with them in Washington, D.C., WTTG-TV reported.

Loudermilk is co-sponsoring separate legislation that would provide reciprocity rights for all Americans. Loudermilk is a co-sponsor of H.R. 38, which would "provide a means by which nonresidents of a state whose residents may carry concealed firearms may also do so in the state." 

Loudermilk's reasoning for supporting legislation that would only extend more gun rights to lawmakers was that, had Scalise not been at the congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning with his security detail, the more than two dozen federal lawmakers would not have had any security whatsoever to defend themselves against the gunman. Police identified the now-deceased attacker as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson from Belleville, Illinois.

According to authorities, Hodkinson had been staying in the Washington, D.C., area for more than a month before the June 14 attack. One witness to the shooting told TheBlaze that she saw Hodkinson at the nearby YMCA working on his laptop" "multiple days a week" for several weeks.

It should be noted, however, that concealed carry is legal in Virginia, which is where the shooting took place.

Scalise and four other people were shot in what appeared to be a politically motivated attack. Scalise, two Capitol Police officers, a congressional aide, and a lobbyist were among the injured. Republican lawmakers credited the two Capitol Police officers, both of whom were armed, with saving their lives.

Understandably shaken up by the attack, Loudermilk now wants to be able to legally carry on his own in Washington, D.C., and not have to rely on the presence of Capitol Police. The congressman's proposal, however, would only apply to federal lawmakers.

While I certainly support the underlying premise that good guys with guns are the most effective way to fend off bad guys with guns, Loudermilk's proposal to create different laws for different people goes against everything the American judicial system is about, which is that our laws apply equally to everyone, no matter whether you're the president, a congressman, or senator.

The better and more effective way to help all of us — not just federal lawmakers — stay safe in the nation's capital is not to exempt lawmakers from current gun laws, but to change the current gun laws for everyone — myself, a Washington, D.C., resident, included.

Democratic D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham have pushed back on Loudermilk's proposal, but the two city leaders don't have a legal leg to stand on. I'll touch more on that in a moment.

"I can tell you right now we do have a process here in the District. We are very comfortable with the process that we do have, and so if they want to avail themselves to the current state of affairs in the District of Columbia, they are welcome do so, Newsham said of Loudermilk's proposal, according to WTTG.

And Bowser said of the congressman's proposal. "We, of course with the council of the District of Columbia, passed the laws that we think help make D.C. safer and stronger and that is going to be our view."

These statements, on their face, might suggest that any effort by the Republican controlled House and Senate to allow lawmakers to carry in the District would fall flat. But now let's go back to my previous point that D.C. city leaders do not have a legal leg to stand on.

According to the Home Rule Act of 1973, Congress has the power to override any legislation the District of Columbia city council passes:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the Congress of the United States reserves the right, at any time, to exercise its constitutional authority as legislature for the District, by enacting legislation for the District on any subject, whether within or without the scope of legislative power granted to the Council by this Act, including legislation to amend or repeal any law in force in the District prior to or after enactment of this Act and any act passed by the Council.

The point is, if Congress has the power to exempt federal lawmakers from certain D.C. laws, it has the authority to exempt everyone.

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees all citizens "equal protection of the laws. Presumably, this includes equal protection under the Second Amendment, which, arguably, the District of Columbia currently denies its residents.

Further, the 14th Amendment directly contradicts Loudermilk's proposal that just 535 people, elected to represent the "We the People, should be exempt from whichever laws they so choose. This, my fellow Americans, is a very slippery slope we should never, ever go down.

Editor's note: This post has been updated.

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