DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA RESIDENTS VOTING RIGHTS HELD HOSTAGE TO EXTREMIST GUN LOBBY
On Thursday, March 22, 2007 the US House of Representatives began consideration of H.R. 1433, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act, which would provide the residents of the District of Columbia with full voting rights in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, consideration was halted when pro-gun lobby extremists used a parliamentary procedure to try to amend the bill and overturn a 28-year old law enacted by the elected officials of the District of Columbia and affects only D.C. residents that for reasons of public safety outlaws handguns bought after 1976. Registered firearms bought before 1976 must be kept unloaded and disassembled, or with the trigger locked.
In addition to our strong support of the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act, the NAACP also strongly opposes any move to repeal the District's self-enacted gun safety measures. While some may disagree with these 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 the children and law enforcement officers of their constituents. 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 gun control laws to stem the tide of violence.
The bill originally under consideration, H.R. 1433, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act would provide the residents of the District of Columbia with a voting member in the US House of Representatives. 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 classic 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 say. It also means that the federal government is receiving and spending $4 billion without having to account for it. In fact, the residents of the District of Columbia pay more federal taxes per capita than all but one other state.
The NAACP strongly urges all Members of the House of Representatives to reject the maneuver to repeal the District's self-enacted gun control measures and to support final passage of a "clean" District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act.
- The residents of the District of Columbia ? our nation's capitol and to many the seat of democracy ? are the only Americans who pay full federal income taxes, serve on juries and protect our nation in the US military yet are not allowed voting representation in either the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate. This is contrary to the basic tenets of the democracy upon which this nation was founded, and is, quite simply, morally wrong.
- As a result of this law, over 500,000 people, over 57% of whom are African American, 30% are Caucasian and 8.5% are Hispanic, pay almost $4 billion in federal taxes each year, yet have no say in how that money is spent.
- The move to overturn the District of Columbia's local gun control laws undermines the right to self-determination that is at the heart of American democracy.
- While some may disagree with these laws, it is clear that they were enacted by the duly elected officials of the city, who were responding to the desires of their constituents to protect their children and their law enforcement officers; the fact that these laws have been on the books for more than 28 years shows that they enjoy the continued support of the majority of the city's population.