Washington D.C. Statehood is a Gun Control Issue

Colt Trooper with an open cylinder

Up until 2008, Washington D.C. had a ban on personal handgun ownership, a prohibition only scrapped after the Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional. (Photo: Guns.com)

Anti-gun advocates are all-in when it comes to making the current District of Columbia America’s 51st State.

The Democrat-controlled U.S. House voted 232-180 last week along party lines in favor of H.R. 51, a move introduced by Washington D.C.’s non-voting delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, to grant statehood to the District. Not a single Republican voted for the measure, which some openly decried as unconstitutional, while the White House signaled disapproval.

Meanwhile, national gun control groups backed by billionaire former Democratic Presidental candidates applauded the prospect of the planned new state of “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.” Such a new entity, the 20th largest city in the country and the smallest state in size, would immediately have two new voting seats in the U.S. Senate, and one in the House.

“D.C. statehood is a gun safety issue,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety in a statement. “It is disgraceful that voters in the District have been excluded from the national legislative conversation for so many years — especially when it comes to gun violence prevention. The Senate should follow the House’s lead and pass this vital legislation.”

It’s not just Everytown– formed from a 2014 merger of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action– that championed D.C.’s statehood. The Brady Campaign also quickly announced its support, saying the current “disenfranchisement is an outrage,” while the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said, “Now is the time to give the 700,000 citizens in the nation’s capital full and equal representation in Congress.”

It should be noted that the District has one of the strictest gun control schemes in the country, including a ban on popular semi-automatic rifles, declared “gun-free zones” that include most of the city, controversial “may issue” carry permits, and mandatory registration of all firearms. The city even banned virtually all civilian handgun ownership until a landmark 2008 Supreme Court ruling forced it to overturn the prohibition. This poses the question that, if D.C., for example, had constitutional carry and would likely come into the Union as a new red state, if the same anti-gun groups would care that its residents were disenfranchised?

While the likelihood of D.C. achieving statehood through an upvote on H.R. 51 by the GOP-controlled Senate, escaping a Presidental veto, and enduring the inevitable legal challenges to its existence is slim, 2020 is an election year which could see both Congress and the White House flip.

One thing is certain, though, the public safety of the planned new state might be up in the air, as a recent union survey of the Washington D.C. Metro Police Department found that over 70 percent of the officers responding are considering leaving the force.

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