Washington, DC—Yesterday, District of Columbia elected officials, local victims of gun violence, voting rights organizations, and community groups stood united on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building to denounce the “Second Amendment Enforcement Act,” which was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
The press conference was organized by Kenny Barnes, the founder of Reaching Out to Others Together (ROOT). The event’s purpose was to express opposition to S. 3265/H.R. 5162, which would legalize assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines; repeal the District's licensing and registration system; allow some convicted substance abusers and violent misdemeanants to purchase and own firearms; roll back important regulations curbing illegal gun trafficking; and prevent the D.C. Council from enacting gun-related legislation in the future. These bills were drafted by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Tester (D-MT) in the Senate and Reps. Travis Childers (D-MS) and Mark Souder (R-IN) in the House.
Speaking at the press conference were D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, and Council Members Phil Mendelson, Michael Brown, David Catania, Marion Barry, Harry Thomas, Jr. and Muriel Bowser. Last month, the council unanimously approved a resolution that stated their opposition to “any [legislation] that would restrict the Council’s authority to legislate laws or regulations that restrict the private ownership or use of firearms or that would repeal major portions of the District’s firearms regulation law.”
They were joined at the press conference by local and national organizations including ROOT, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, DC for Democracy, DC Vote, Peaceoholics and Inner Thoughts.
The most powerful testimony at the event, however, came from family members who lost loved ones to gun violence in the District. This included Nardyne Jefferies, the founder of Stop Killing Innocent People (SKIP) whose 16-year-old daughter Brishell Jones was killed in the March 30 mass shooting in Southeast Washington; Brishell’s two grandmothers; and Norman Williams, who lost his son Jordan Howe in the March 30 shooting. Williams, referring to assault weapons like the AK-47 which killed his son, said, “Those weapons belong in Afghanistan or something. They don’t belong here.” Nardyne Jefferies agreed, noting the damage such a weapon had done to her daughter.
After the press conference, these family members traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. In a statement this week, Del. Norton said, “I am grateful that the victims of last month's massacre are not standing alone, but have been joined by the voting rights coalition and organizations that have always stood up for our right to enact gun safety laws. Together we must expose Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate who profess to be for self-government, and then sponsor bills to take away the self-governing rights of the District of Columbia, even though the federal courts have now found the District's new gun laws to be constitutional."
The families then went to the offices of Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jon Tester (D-MT), where they were met with a chilly reception. Kenny Barnes of ROOT was with the group during these visits and stated, “It was terrible. They were as unconcerned and lackadaisical as could be, and I’m putting it nicely.”
Josh Horwitz, who also joined the group for its Hill visits, emerged more determined than ever to defeat the “Second Amendment Enforcement Act.” “I have been working the Hill for 20 years and I have never encountered Senate staff who were less informed about gun policy issues or less sympathetic to the plight of gun violence victims,” he said.
"There is a lot of misinformation about the District's gun laws being circulated through the halls of Congress,” said Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence President Paul Helmke. “It's our job to make sure legislators understand the truth about this legislation before they cast votes that could lead to more bloodshed.”
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.
ROOT, Inc. (Reaching Out to Others Together) is a Washington, DC based a nonprofit, 501(c) 3 organization, is committed to advocacy and intervention on behalf of homicide victims and their families. Our mission is to motivate and mobilize communities to take a proactive approach to reducing homicides and the senseless violence occurring in our cities.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities. The Brady Campaign works to pass and enforce sensible federal and state gun laws, regulations, and public policies through grassroots activism, electing public officials who support common sense gun laws, and increasing public awareness of gun violence.