D.C. Voting Rights Go Back in the Dead Letter Bin

By Juell Stewart Apr 21, 2010

The DC Voting Rights Bill that was expected to reach the House this week has been pulled from this session’s legislative calendar entirely, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told The Washington Post yesterday. Tensions between Congress and the District’s City Council have been rising ever since the Senate’s version of the DC Voting Rights Act passed with a dubious amendment that, if enacted, would override all of the city’s efforts to enforce gun control policies. After blockading the bill in the House for a year, D.C.’s nonvoting representative, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, said in a statement last week that she and the City Council would reluctantly endorse the bill — conceding defeat to the gun lobby, Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in order to finally secure a vote for DC’s residents. The District has been unrepresented in Congress since the city was established as a federal territory in 1801. But Norton said she and Democratic leadership were "shocked" to learn the gun lobby now wants even stronger language in the House version of the bill. “The existing Senate gun bill eliminated important gun safety laws in the District, but the changes in the House gun bill would directly proliferate guns throughout the District,” Norton said in a statement yesterday. Among the changes proposed by Reps. Mark Sounder (R-Ind.) and Travis Childers (D-Miss.) — changes Norton calls "NRA-drafted" — are measures that would greatly diminish the D.C. police chief’s right to deny concealed-carry licenses and that would potentially allow semiautomatic weapons in schools and other buildings that don’t have elaborate security measures, like metal detectors and biometric screening devices in place to identify those with criminal intent.