D.C. VOTING RIGHTS BILL TO BE VOTING ON BY FULL HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
BILL TO GIVE THE RESIDENTS OF D.C. REPRESENTATION IN CONGRESS WAS DELAYED BY ISSUES OF GUN VIOLENCE AND SELF RULE; VOTE MAY OCCUR AS EARLY AS THIS THURSDAY, APRIL 22
Legislation that passed the U.S. Senate (S. 160, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act ) earlier this year to give the residents of the District of Columbia voting representation in Congress has been stalled in the House over the issues of making guns more easily available and self-rule. Specifically, just prior to final passage by the Senate, an amendment was adopted which would override all of the city's gun violence prevention laws. Many of these laws have been in place for almost 30 years and were enacted through the democratic process by the residents of the District of Columbia. They affect only D.C. residents who have consistently supported sane, sensible laws to ban handguns bought after 1976, require that registered firearms bought before 1976 must be kept unloaded and disassembled, or with the trigger locked and outlawed military-styled assault weapons altogether.
The NAACP strongly supports H.R 157 the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (the House companion to S. 160), and although we also strongly oppose any move to repeal the District's self-enacted gun safety measures, we agree with the District's elected officials that the bill should move forward. Despite the fact that they pay federal taxes, serve on juries and defend our Nation in times of war like most other Americans, the residents of the District of Columbia are barred from having voting representation on the floor of the U.S. House or Senate. This modern-day example of "taxation without representation" is contrary to everything that this nation is founded on. This means that more than half a million people, more than 57% of whom are African American (with Caucasians making up just over 30% of the population and 8.5% of the residents claiming Hispanic background), are paying money to and dying for a government in which they have no real say. It also means that the federal government is receiving and spending $4 billion without having to account for it.
And while some may disagree with the gun safety laws, it is clear that they were enacted democratically by officials who were duly elected by the citizens of the District of Columbia and that they continue to enjoy the support of the majority of the people who live under them. The mayor and the city council, all of whom were acting on behalf of their constituents, drafted, debated and finally enacted this legislation as a means of protecting their constituents, their families, and law enforcement officers. The fact that these laws have remained on the books for more than 28 years is significant; the people of the District of Columbia, faced with unacceptably high rates of death by firearm (169 in DC in 2001) and the huge human and economic costs associated with gun violence (the closing of DC General hospital, which was overwhelmed by uninsured citizens coming in with gunshot wounds) have continued to support a variety of sane and sensible gun control laws to stem the tide of violence.
Today, Tuesday, April 21 is national call in day in support of H.R. 157. The NAACP strongly urges all members and friends to use the toll free number (1-888-999-6775) to contact their elected representatives and urge them to support H.R. 157.
©2009 NAACP Washington Bureau, 1156 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005