Predictably, the bill in Congress has sparked the ire of the usual anti-gun suspects. From the Washington Post, we learn:
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier assailed a new bill yesterday that would eliminate most of the District's gun laws, telling a congressional panel that the measure would allow residents to carry loaded semiautomatic rifles in the streets, creating a nightmare scenario for homeland security officials.
"Imagine how difficult it will be for law enforcement to safeguard the public, not to mention the new president at the inaugural parade, if carrying semiautomatic rifles were to suddenly become legal in Washington," she said.
The New York Times also reports on the city's police chief and congressional delegate attempt to raise the assassination issue:
Cathy Lanier, chief of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, said the proposed law would put countless residents and people who work in the city at risk.
“Imagine how difficult it will be for law enforcement to safeguard the public, not to mention the president at the inaugural parade,” Chief Lanier said at a hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. She added that on any given day there were motorcades for foreign dignitaries and untold numbers of federal workers traveling the city streets.
However, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s delegate to Congress, said the bill was an affront to Washington’s right to govern itself.
“The palpable risk that this bill poses to the public safety of our residents is deliberately lost on the N.R.A. and the Democratic and Republican sponsors of their bill,” said Ms. Norton, a Democrat. “But, I doubt that carrying loaded AK-47s or .50-caliber sniper assault weapons openly in cars or in person will go down well with federal law enforcement and security officials in this city, where two presidents have been killed with handguns.”
As The Hill reports, the anti-gun democrats at the hearing agree:
At a hearing Tuesday, [Committee Chair Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)] railed against allowing more guns in the capital city, a terrorist target where police are constantly guarding national leaders and foreign dignitaries.
“The district is a target-rich environment,” Waxman said. “Next Jan. 20, the next president of the United States will be sworn into office. I don’t know if that person will be Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain. But I do know that if the NRA bill becomes law, protecting him will be vastly more difficult.”
Writing at Reason, Jacob Sullum attempts to debunk some of the errors in D.C. position:
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) argues that the bill would allow people to carry "loaded AK-47s or .50-caliber sniper assault weapons openly in cars or in person," which would pose a "palpable risk...to the public safety of our residents" and create a challenge for "federal law enforcement and security officials in this city, where two presidents have been killed with handguns." D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier warns, "In attempted and successful assassinations around the world, the first step in attacking a motorcade is frequently to take out the security detail with semiautomatic and automatic firearms."
I'm not sure where to begin. The only provision of the bill that deals with carrying weapons applies in the gun owner's "dwelling house or place of business or on other land possessed by that person." There's nothing about carrying loaded guns in public. AK-47s and all other "automatic firearms" would remain prohibited in any case. The two assassinated presidents to whom Norton refers are Abraham Lincoln, who was killed with a single-shot derringer, and James Garfield, who was killed with a revolver. (John Hinckley also used a revolver when he tried to kill Ronald Reagan.) Both are types of weapons that would remain legal in Washington no matter what Congress does.
Of course, the virulently anti-gun editorial board of the New York Times, no friend of gun-owners or the Second Amendment, parrots the disingenuous argument of city officials. In an op-ed on the House bill, they
Congress is considering a reckless piece of legislation that would eviscerate gun controls in the District of Columbia, ignoring the democratic rights of the residents of the nation’s capital and making it harder for the police to protect streets traveled by ordinary people, lawmakers, judges, diplomats and dignitaries. ...
Not to be left out, the Washington Post gets a little anti-gun whining in as well:
FEW WOULD HAVE predicted in the awful days after Sept. 11, 2001, that just seven years later, members of Congress would actually be considering legislation to make the nation's capital harder to protect. That, though, is exactly what will happen today as a key House committee takes up a bill that would gut sensible restraints on guns in the District. It will be telling to see which holds sway with committee members -- the wishes of the National Rifle Association or the interests of homeland security. ...
Evidently, city's officials, and the exalted editorial boards of the Times and Post believe that violent criminals will somehow magically obey the law. Sigh. Perhaps blinded by their hatred of the people having any power not endorsed by the government, and their misplaced faith in that government, they continue to push their unconstitutional, anti-freedom agenda upon all. The predictable result is infringement of the human rights of law-abiding citizens.