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The Democracy Chronicles

D.C. Councilmember Michael A. Brown (At | 4/15/2009, 4:42 p.m.

The press has been abuzz of news surrounding the DC House Voting Rights Act of 2009.

As background, earlier this year, the DC House Voting Rights Act (H.R.157) was introduced to provide District of Columbia voters the right to elect a full Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Before the House could even pass the bill, in February, the U.S. Senate, along a bipartisan vote, passed its version of the bill (S.160).

To secure the 60 or more votes to insulate the bill from a Senate filibuster, an amendment was included that would strip the District Council of its power to limit the sale and distribution of guns on DC streets. Thus, according to District Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), to kill the pro-gun amendment, the House would have to pass a €clean€ version of the bill. In other words, a DC voting rights bill without a gun amendment.

Today, the bill that would give DC residents at least 1/3 of the representation they deserve remains stalled, waiting for a legislative miracle of sorts.

Advocates for DC voting rights and statehood have sprung into action, hoping their activism will pave the way for a miracle.
This week, the DC Special Committee on Statehood and Self-Determination, a Committee I chair, held its first Public Oversight Roundtable. This public-hearing styled event, attracted over 40 witnesses including Statehood/Voting Rights activists, constitutional law scholars, and advocates for victims of gun violence.

While representatives of gun manufacturers and gun dealers were also invited, they declined. Nonetheless, witnesses armed my committee with the on the record public testimony, needed for us to craft a unified District position on the voting rights bill and the current gun amendment.

Also this week, National Public Radio dedicated a full hour of a nationally broadcasted program to the issue of DC Voting Rights by interviewing Manus Cooney, constitutional law expert and former Senate Judiciary Chief Counsel, Cooney was but one of the many legal scholars on hand for the Roundtable.

Last week, a House Homeland Security panel heard from law enforcement officials, who are on the front line of enforcing gun laws and responding to violence that stems from a lack thereof. The message from law enforcement was loud and clear, more guns in the District make the federal government as well DC€s 600,000 residents less safe, not more.

For the sake of the nation, and of the District, I hope that Members of Congress, particularly House members, are listening.