DC for Democracy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 19th, 2010
CONTACT: Jesse Lovell, Communications Chair
DC for Democracy, the District of Columbia’s largest non-aligned progressive organization, strongly opposes the extreme concession on home rule contained in the Ensign and Childers amendments to the House Voting Rights Act.
DC for Democracy has been a committed member of the group of local organizations working to achieve full voting rights and budget and legislative autonomy for the residents of the District of Columbia. But we now find ourselves unable to support the bill that is scheduled to be voted upon in Congress Thursday. “The way the deal has been structured, the District would at long last achieve the goal Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and others have fought so hard for — a full vote for DC in the House of Representatives — but at an unacceptably high cost to local democracy,” said DC4D Chair Jerry Clark.
The Ensign and Childers amendments carve an enormous hole in home rule for the District by eliminating the District’s carefully crafted gun laws, recently approved as constitutional by the U.S. District Court, and prohibit our democratically elected city council from ever again regulating gun ownership. We abhor this intrusion into such an important area of the law. But most of all, we reject the notion that Congress would attempt to intrude upon ANY area of the law that is regarded as appropriately a matter for local jurisdictions to decide. Congress would never attempt to do this to a state. They would propose to do so here only because the District is not a state, cannot defend itself in this situation, and in fact relies on Congress to be its protector against such intrusions.
There has been significant progress by Congress in recent years, aided by our hard-fighting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, as well as the mayor and city council, to fend off attempts by lobbying groups working through members of Congress to overturn other District laws of which they did not approve. Leaders of Congress have played a statesman-like role that traces its roots to the historic debates of this nation’s founding fathers.
We fully appreciate that this particular amendment is being pushed by perhaps the most powerful, and certainly most feared, lobby in America, the National Rifle Association. Particularly in an election year, neither party leaders nor congressional candidates may wish to vote against such a formidable group. But it is situations such as this that call for the exercise of moral leadership to protect the interests of those unable to protect themselves, as well as to preserve Congress’ record in recent years of standing up for democracy in the District of Columbia. Failure to do so only invites more such intrusions.
In his statement last week supporting the House Voting Rights Act for the District of Columbia, President Obama did not explicitly take a position on the proposed amendment. He did, however, urge Congress not only to provide DC residents with voting representation but also to take steps to improve the Home Rule Charter. In our view, adopting the Ensign/Childers amendment not only does not improve the Home Rule Charter but, in fact, wholly undermines it, now and for the foreseeable future.
We believe strongly that the District’s gun laws are an important element of public safety that the city council and law enforcement agencies regard as central to protecting our residents, visitors and public servants, domestic and international, who live, work and vacation in DC. We object to these amendments and therefore cannot acquiesce in passage of this bill.