Law­mak­ers de­mand right to carry guns

Many shaken af­ter shoot­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREA NO­BLE

Af­ter Re­pub­li­can mem­bers of Congress were tar­geted by a left­wing zealot in a shoot­ing in the Wash­ing­ton sub­urbs last week, law­mak­ers said they felt like sit­ting ducks and de­manded more free­dom to de­fend them­selves while in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

The chief tar­get is the city’s re­stric­tive gun laws, in­clud­ing its tight con­trols on con­cealed-carry per­mits, which re­quire some­one to show “good rea­son to fear in­jury” or an­other “proper rea­son,” such as a job that re­quires car­ry­ing large amounts of cash or valu­ables, be­fore they can re­ceive a per­mit.

One plan that has emerged would let any­one who holds a per­mit back home carry a con­cealed weapon in the Dis­trict of Columbia as well. An­other pro­posal in the works would specif­i­cally let mem­bers of Congress carry firearms any­where in the coun­try.

The push is on af­ter about two dozen mem­bers of Congress and staffers were caught in the open on a base­ball field in Alexan­dria last week by a gun­man armed with a ri­fle and a hand­gun. If it hadn’t been for three U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cers as­signed to pro­tect one of the se­nior mem­bers at the field, those who were there would

have been mas­sa­cred, they said.

“We were sit­ting ducks. We had noth­ing to fight back with but bats, if it came to that,” Rep. Roger Wil­liams of Texas, whose staffer was wounded in the shoot­ing, said in the hours af­ter the at­tack.

The shooter, James Hodgkin­son, re­port­edly had a list of Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers’ names and had re­peat­edly ranted against Repub­li­cans on so­cial me­dia. He was killed in a shootout with po­lice af­ter he in­jured a hand­ful of peo­ple.

Rep. Thomas A. Gar­rett Jr., a Vir­ginia Re­pub­li­can who in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion in March that would wipe out many of the city’s firearms re­stric­tions, said that if mem­bers could ob­tain con­cealed carry per­mits in the Dis­trict that would be hon­ored in neigh­bor­ing Vir­ginia, it’s likely some of those on the base­ball di­a­mond when gun­fire erupted Wed­nes­day might have had their firearms nearby.

Vir­ginia does have less-strin­gent laws and al­lows rec­i­proc­ity to carry weapons for those who hold per­mits in their home states. But that doesn’t help when the law­mak­ers have to go to and from the Capi­tol and its D.C. en­vi­rons.

“Mul­ti­ple mem­bers present have per­mits in their home states,” said Mr. Gar­rett. “But since you can’t come from Wash­ing­ton with a gun, they couldn’t carry.”

Wash­ing­ton used to have a com­plete ban on car­ry­ing firearms in pub­lic, but it was struck down in 2014. The city later adopted the “good rea­son” reg­u­la­tions.

Since then, the Metropoli­tan Po­lice De­part­ment re­ports it has re­ceived 313 ap­pli­ca­tions from out-of-state res­i­dents seek­ing to carry con­cealed hand­guns in the Dis­trict. Just 79 have been ap­proved.

Two law­suits chal­leng­ing the city’s re­stric­tive pol­icy are pend­ing.

The U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the D.C. Cir­cuit heard oral ar­gu­ments in the two cases in Septem­ber but has yet to is­sue a rul­ing. The three judges who heard the case, all Re­pub­li­can ap­pointees, were skep­ti­cal of the city’s de­mand that own­ers must jus­tify a need for self-de­fense.

Law­mak­ers are mov­ing to take the mat­ter into their hands.

Mr. Gar­rett’s leg­is­la­tion, which would also re­quire that the city’s po­lice de­part­ment “shall is­sue” con­cealed carry per­mits to qual­i­fied adults who ap­ply, picked up six of its seven co-spon­sors since Wed­nes­day’s shoot­ing.

An aide for Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, one of the Repub­li­cans at the base­ball prac­tice, said he in­tends to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion that would specif­i­cally al­low mem­bers of Congress to carry firearms any­where in the coun­try.

“Right now when we’re in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. — once we’re off the Capi­tol Hill com­plex we’re still con­gress­men and sen­a­tors — we’re still high-pro­file tar­gets, but we have ab­so­lutely no way to de­fend our­selves be­cause of Wash­ing­ton, D.C.’s rather re­stric­tive gun laws,” Mr. Brooks told Fox News. “I want con­gress­men to be treated as if they were law en­force­ment.”

Mean­while, Rep. Thomas Massie, Ken­tucky Re­pub­li­can, in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion last week that he said would al­low any­one with a con­cealed carry per­mit in his home state to use the per­mit to carry in the Dis­trict.

The pro­posal was co-spon­sored by 21 law­mak­ers — in­clud­ing at least three who had been at the tar­geted base­ball prac­tice.

But where Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers see an op­por­tu­nity to strengthen Sec­ond Amend­ment pro­tec­tions, law­mak­ers from the Dis­trict of Columbia see the lat­est as­sault on their lo­cal author­ity.

“All they can agree on is tak­ing cheap shots at the Dis­trict,” Del­e­gate Eleanor Holmes Nor­ton, the Dis­trict’s non­vot­ing mem­ber of Congress, said of the mul­ti­ple pro­pos­als. “Af­ter last week’s shoot­ing, Rep. Brooks called for send­ing a mes­sage of unity and bi­par­ti­san­ship to the Amer­i­can peo­ple. He is un­der­min­ing that goal with his at­tack on D.C.’s lo­cal gun safety laws.”

Fend­ing off such af­fronts to lo­cal law is noth­ing new for Ms. Nor­ton: D.C. gun laws came un­der un­suc­cess­ful at­tack by mem­bers of Congress at least six times dur­ing the last ses­sion. She said the swell of mo­men­tum among Repub­li­cans to tear up and rewrite the city’s gun laws is con­cern­ing but not nec­es­sary.

“The fact is, most mem­bers of Congress are not rec­og­nized out­side of their own dis­tricts,” the Demo­cratic del­e­gate said. “If Rep. Brooks were to go out on Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue to­day, no­body would know who he is. He is al­ready in the best-pro­tected place on the planet here in the Capi­tol.”

D.C. Coun­cil Chair­man Phil Men­del­son, who helped craft the city’s cur­rent con­cealed-carry laws, said the fer­vor among fed­eral law­mak­ers was trou­bling.

“Some­how, both sides in the gun con­trol de­bate see ar­gu­ments in their fa­vor from this tragic event. I hope, though, that some law­mak­ers don’t see this as an op­por­tu­nity to jump on the Dis­trict and pos­si­bly make things worse,” Mr. Men­del­son said. “Our gun laws have been held con­sti­tu­tional by sev­eral courts, and we con­tinue to re­fine them to en­sure con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity.”

Not­ing the com­pet­ing bills, Ms. Nor­ton said she be­lieves those who sup­port the Dis­trict’s abil­ity to gov­ern it­self will be able to hold off any sweep­ing changes to city gun laws — from law­mak­ers any­how.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FBI agents searched for ev­i­dence on the base­ball field in Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, where Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers were at­tacked by a gun­man. The fright­en­ing in­ci­dent prompted some to call for eas­ing lo­cal gun laws.

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