Gun-control legislation got a much closer look over the past year in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings — but the District and gun-rights activists have been fighting their own battle on the issue for the better part of a decade.
And the experience in the nation’s capital is likely to provide clues to how the gun-rights debate is likely to go in 2014.
Lawmakers on both sides of the issue on Capitol Hill consistently cited parts of the Supreme Court’s 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision that struck down the District’s long-standing handgun ban to bolster their positions.
But the man behind the case and other gun-rights activists continue fighting to chip away at stringent gun laws in place in the District and elsewhere, as gun-control advocates try to stiff-arm the efforts and claim their own victories where they can.
The District’s gun debate remains squarely in the national spotlight: Reps. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, and John Barrow, Georgia Democrat, introduced a bill last month that would do away with D.C.’s ban on semiautomatic rifles and gut other gun restrictions — prompting a swift rebuke from the city’s non-voting delegate, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton.
“[T]he NRA and their acolytes underestimate our residents if they think this city will tolerate autocratic rule from Congress, particularly on the life-and-death issue of gun safety, any more than the 4th District of Ohio or the 12th District of Georgia would tolerate dictatorship from Congress on local matters,” she said.
But the introduction of the standalone bill is emblematic of how the debate has shifted since the Heller decision. Though it struck down the District’s 32-year handgun law, the high court majority also declared the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms is “not unlimited,” citing concealed weapons laws and prohibitions on felons and the mentally ill from owning guns, for example.