Like The Alcoholic Trying to Get on the Wagon …

DC is trying to ease up a bit on its gun hating ways, but elements of their political culture just don’t want to see it happen. Phil Mendelson held a meeting to discuss making violating D.C.’s gun laws for non-residents a simple fine. But D.C. Attorney General will have none of it:

“We are opposed because we think it’s unwise to start down a slope where gun offenses and therefore perhaps others wind up on that sort of process,” says Andrew Fois, assistant D.C. attorney general.

Mr. Fois claims that prosecutors can exercise discretion. Does that practically happen? I guess maybe when your case attracts enough press attention. We should be honest about what’s motivating DC on this issue — fear of repercussions from Congress. Congress is already itching to preempt DC City Council on the subject of guns entirely, and the District is trying to avoid that prospect. Problem? We can’t get any such preemption bill through the Senate or White House. At least not easily.

11 thoughts on “Like The Alcoholic Trying to Get on the Wagon …”

    1. Be careful what you ask for, you may get it. That having been said, the D.C.laws are unconstitutional, and likely to be ruled so. Plus, things change in the Senate and White House…

      1. I remember writing a book in which I referred to then Rep. Charles Schumer. Microsoft Word did not recognize his last name, and suggested “Schemer”? Sometimes autocorrect is smarter than it looks.

  1. While I give Mendelson credit for talking about change, don’t be too quick to credit these guys with a renaissance in gun-right ideology. Mendelson can be credited with doing some nice things, but he is no gun-rights guy by a long shot. He admits it, openly.

    Backstory: In 2010, Congress was set to give DC a full-fledged House Representative. That was huge. They were going to “balance” the new presumably Democratic rep with a new Republican Rep in Utah, even though the Utah rep was pretty much assumed to be a given anyway due to census changes. The cost was DC losing the ability to pass gun laws – those would fall back to Congressional management, but the amendment basically made DC like VA or FL when it came to shall-issue (plus some federal carve-outs).

    The bill was negotiated and ready to pass. The Dems bought off on it, as did many in the DC city establishment. Harder still, the Republicans agreed to let it happen. They didn’t think DC would bite. The local news reported this as a “done deal”, but at the last hour, Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC Delegate to Congress) asked Steny Hoyer (House Whip) to pull it, due to a sudden change of heart over the guns. It was never voted on.

    Utah got their Republican rep anyway, and DC got jack shit. They got within hours of having a real House Representative, and blew it over gun-control.

    There is a lingering resentment in Democratic circles over the last-minute move. National Dems are angry because the (R) side of the House got a ‘safe’ Utah seat, while the (D) side gave up one of their own. Of course, the are also upset because the House seat was going to be used to springboard into the real-big request: a Senate seat.

    Likewise, city leaders were angry. They lost their representation, and likewise extra home-rule advantages (budget, taxation, etc.) over something many know will happen anyway – most everyone expects DC will be forced into relaxing gun laws. Many feel like they had a chance to get something for nothing, and the legacy leadership blew it.

    Someone made a serious error two years ago. They repeated a smaller version of it in 2011 – though this time the gun-rights amendment was used as a poison pill provision. Basically, every time DC wants something, an (R) lawmaker just attaches a gun-rights amendment and watches the DC bill get pulled before the vote. At this point, the entire DC legal framework and home-rule advancement is being held hostage to gun-control…which nearly everyone figures is going to change anyway. The convention wisdom that DC gun laws are going to be changed, that Congressional (R)’s have started attaching abortion-related amendments to DC bills now, just in case the courts force gun-rights on DC. They still want a poison-pill to kill representation. The Dems could have called the Republican bluff over guns and gotten something the (R) side is loath to extend: a House Rep. But they couldn’t pull that trigger.

    The city council is frankly trying to buy what they want from Congress by offering some barebones renovations of their gun laws. That’s it. They want to blunt the Congressional push to eliminate all home-rule capability on the Second Amendment, while being able to move forward on their home-rule strategies.

    Anyway, it’s good to see forward movement even if its little more than a recognition change is coming. Living here, I’ll take what we can get. I cannot get to VA without a long drive around the city. Going to a VA gun show is an exercise in traffic management. The last thing I need a felony charge for having a PMag in my possession in DC.

    1. Utah got their Republican rep anyway….

      Really? This doesn’t match my memory or the quick check I just made in Wikipedia. And how could it happen, it was a packaged deal, during a period in which the Democrats had complete control of the Congress.

      Also, I have to wonder if one of the things that killed it was fear that the seat for D.C. would be killed in the courts based on its patent unconstitutionality and Utah’s would remain.

      1. Both Wikipedia and the Census Bureau show Utah gaining a seat in 2010 due to Census reapportionment:

        Article talking about the potential “trade” and the fact the gun amendment killed it:

        The gun-rights provisions were being attached via amendment and had majority support in committee. The Dems could not stop it, because some of their own supported it. As for Constitutionality, I have no idea what the arguments would have been.

        A lot of folks around here thought DC scored a huge win – they were going to get a vote in Congress in “exchange” for a seat in Utah that Utah was going to get anyway; and they would have lightened up gun laws that most thought would be forced upon them anyway.

        The local news radio talked about the win; the local politicos said it was a tough pill to swallow but that all would take it…and then DC balked. It may have had something to do with Norton having a credible challenger in the election that year. He pounded relentlessly for voting rights, and for the first time a challenger was scoring hits on Norton. I think he said he would have supported the amendment, guns and all.

        But as usual, everyone moved from center of the ring to their respective corners and the fight ended the way it always does in DC: the old guard wins by a mile.

        1. Sure, Utah got a new, 4th seat from reapportionment due to the 2010 Census, but note in that pdf that the total number of representatives remained 235. Note also that the reapportionment bill would have mandated that the 4th Utah be at large, another thing that could have helped kill it.

          I have to run, but for constitutionality Amendment 23 hints at the problem. The big issue is that by definition it’s not a state; giving it more privileges as the 23rd did would require further amendment of the Constitution.

          1. OK. No argument from me.

            My original point was (and is): DC almost had something they dearly wanted, but blew it over gun control. To the point of the story at OP, I am still credulous the DC Council is going to move to relax gun laws without a serious carrot at the end of a long stick.

            They know they blew it, and they know they won’t go anywhere in the next Congress with the gun control issue hanging over their heads. My suspicion is they are looking to relax just enough to diffuse the standoff, let the NRA take a win, and then get on with their real business. They suspect the NRA will take a half-measure just to score the public win. I hope they are wrong.

            Gun politics just don’t exist in DC. It’s that thing from another universe that is just getting in their way. They want to shuffle it aside and get into better things.

            Mendelson has at least taken steps. Don’t care his reasons or motives. A move forward is move forward. I just don’t think they are going to move forward anywhere close to where we need them to be: me safe carrying through DC on my way to VA.

            Thanks for the pointers on statehood/representation issues. I just had never considered them in detail. Will research.

  2. Relying on prosecutors’ discretion instead of the law means gun charges will be brought based on who the voter is, primarily a political decision, instead of whether the shooter is justified. That’s the same problem you get with permits in may issue states, and it opens the door to a wide range of abuses.

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