Sit­ting ducks in Congress

Pub­lic ser­vice shouldn’t re­quire sac­ri­fic­ing per­sonal se­cu­rity

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Sit­ting mem­bers of Congress should not be sit­ting ducks. Last week’s shoot­ing of Rep. Steve Scalise and sev­eral Repub­li­can staff mem­bers at a base­ball field in subur­ban Wash­ing­ton re­vealed them to be ex­actly that. They can thank the Dis­trict of Columbia’s ex­ces­sive and spite­ful firearms re­stric­tions. Laws hin­der­ing their abil­ity to carry a con­cealed weapon should be re­laxed to en­able mem­bers of Congress and other law-abid­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans to pro­tect them­selves.

Po­lit­i­cal rhetoric eas­ily gives way to phys­i­cal vi­o­lence, as we have seen, so the mo­ment is right to flush away the mock­ery of the Con­sti­tu­tion in the city where the sa­cred doc­u­ment is en­shrined. Rep. Thomas Massie, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, has in­tro­duced the D.C. Per­sonal Pro­tec­tion Re­ciproc­ity Act, which would grant those who have per­mits to carry a con­cealed weapon in other states the right to carry their weapon in the Dis­trict. Mr. Massie takes a com­mon-sense ap­proach to the Sec­ond Amend­ment: “I do not want to ex­tend a spe­cial priv­i­lege to politi­cians be­cause the right to keep and bear arms is not a priv­i­lege, it is a God-given right pro­tected by our Con­sti­tu­tion.”

Mr. Scalise and two oth­ers were wounded while Repub­li­cans prac­ticed for their an­nual char­ity game against con­gres­sional Democrats. By hap­pen­stance, he was the vic­tim of a de­ranged, Repub­li­can-hat­ing gun­man poi­soned by the par­ti­san rants and rages of the day. As the ma­jor­ity whip, he is en­ti­tled to a se­cu­rity de­tail, and two Capi­tol Po­lice of­fi­cers sprang into action to shoot down the at­tacker be­fore he could turn the base­ball di­a­mond into a killing field. If Mr. Scalise had skipped the early morn­ing prac­tice, the two po­lice­men would have been on duty else­where and the base­ball squad would have faced as­sailant James Hodgkin­son and his high-pow­ered ri­fle with noth­ing but their bats.

Rep. Barry Lou­d­er­milk, Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can, present but un­harmed dur­ing the shoot­ing, ob­served that a mem­ber of his staff sit­ting in his car at the field could have pulled out his li­censed gun and fired on the as­sailant — if the in­ci­dent had oc­curred back home in Ge­or­gia. Like most cit­i­zens who travel be­tween the Dis­trict and nearby Vir­ginia, he was nec­es­sar­ily un­armed.

Gun re­ciproc­ity is es­sen­tial to elim­i­nat­ing a patch­work of reg­u­la­tions stretch­ing across the coun­try that leaves gun own­ers re­luc­tant to pack a weapon for fear of in­ad­ver­tently break­ing the law while trav­el­ing to or through a state. Cur­rently, 41 states have some de­gree of re­ciproc­ity, but with­out a na­tion­wide agree­ment, the dan­ger of a mis­take pun­ish­able by jail time is a risk many won’t take, leav­ing them vul­ner­a­ble to the mad and the crazy.

Like other anti-gun ju­ris­dic­tions, the Dis­trict, which has more than its share of the mad, the law­less and the crim­i­nal, doesn’t pro­hibit con­cealed carry, but it re­quires ap­pli­cants to reach a high bar to prove the need for a per­mit. Amer­i­cans who live else­where but travel into the Dis­trict to work, like mem­bers of Congress, had bet­ter not count on ex­plain­ing away an in­no­cent firearms of­fense in the Dis­trict. A U.S. Army sol­dier was once ar­rested for hav­ing mere bul­lets, but no gun, in his back­pack.

Mr. Scalise’s col­leagues should take to heart the les­son taught on the ball ground: Pub­lic ser­vice re­quires sac­ri­fice, but giv­ing up the se­cu­rity of a sidearm they are en­ti­tled to bear at home should not be a re­quire­ment for ser­vice in Congress.

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