Something strange seems to come over far-right Republican Members of Congress during election season. A case in point is seven-term Congressman Mark Souder from the state of Indiana. He is by all accounts an opponent of Big Government and federal interference in local matters. But in an election year when he is facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Mike Montagano, Souder has decided to spend his time pushing a bill that seeks to usurp the powers of the mayor, city council and residents of the District of Columbia.
H.R. 1399 would pre-empt the Supreme Court s recent decision in District of Columbia v. Heller and prevent the city from complying with the ruling by instituting a new registration system for handguns. Souder s bill would allow individuals to possess unregistered firearms, repeal the District s ban on assault weapons, and prohibit the city from taking any future action to enact laws or regulations that discourage or eliminate the private ownership or use of firearms. Federal lawmakers are essentially being asked to impose on the city of Washington something they would never tolerate for their own home districts.
Given the state of the economy and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, one would think our Congress has far more important things to do than serve as the city council for the District of Columbia. However, the National Rifle Association (NRA) remains a lobbying power on Capitol Hill and it is eager to throw raw meat to its contributors as the November elections approach. According to The Hill newspaper, the NRA will be grading Members of Congress on whether they support a discharge petition to bring H.R. 1399 to the floor of the House. Conservatives looking for NRA money and support have been put on notice.
The District is vulnerable to such an attack, of course, because it continues to lack voting representation in Congress. Rep. Souder and many of the co-sponsors of H.R. 1399 are the same politicians that time and again have opposed the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act, which would give the city a voting representative in their chamber for the first time ever. D.C. s non-voting Delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, has been perfectly clear regarding her opinion of Rep. Souder s legislation, stating, I’ve seen some outrageous attempts to violate home-rule, but this nakedly political and unnecessary NRA-driven attempt is a new low because, by acting now, they deny the District the decency and respect due any American jurisdiction going through the prescribed process for complying with [a decision by the Supreme Court].
In a time when our country is facing real and pressing issues domestically and abroad, it s not only D.C. that should be feeling outrage. Voters who want their elected officials to deal with the problems that actually affect them and their families might also want to keep their eye on what Rep. Souder and the NRA are trying to pull off in Congress.