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Norton, D.C. Council Undeterred by Voting Rights Delay

Denise Rolark-Barnes | 6/11/2009, 12:25 a.m.

D.C. voting rights advocates are trying to regroup after this week€s announcement of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer€s decision to further delay a congressional vote on the D.C. voting rights bill due to a lack of consensus by city leaders on a gun bill amendment.

In what was viewed as a clear path for passage of the bill this year, it turned into a major hurdle when Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada attached a gun amendment to the legislation that would repeal the District€s gun control laws.

City leaders opposed the gun amendment and asserted that it would make it legal to carry an unregistered firearm in the District and to legally purchase guns outside of the city limits.

Congresswoman Eleanor Norton (D-D.C.) said she was grateful for the considerable effort that the Majority Leader has put into setting a clean bill, but €We will never give up on equal rights for our residents,€ Norton said.

Since 1990, Norton has led the fight for Congressional approval for D.C. voting rights, but this amendment, she said, posed an €unusual public safety danger€ to District residents.

In a statement released on Tue., June 9, Norton expressed her disappointment that she has not received any help from the Obama administration and believed that many pro-gun Democrats could have supported the Voting Rights bill without political damage to themselves.

Members of the D.C. City Council weighed-in with their support of Hoyer€s decision and vowed to continue the fight for voting rights.

€We will not be deterred by the discriminate acts of a few who would hold democracy hostage at the barrel of a gun,€ said D.C. Councilmember Kwame Brown (D-At-Large).

€I stand by D.C. Vote, my colleagues and the residents as we continue our march toward progress. I want to thank Congresswoman Norton and Majority Leader Hoyer for their steadfast commitment to seeing this through,€ Brown said.

Other members of the Council added their comments on the Voting Rights bill in the District.

€It is supremely frustrating that D.C. residents are forced to wait on voting representation because of the NRA€s bold-faced attempt to impose its view of the Second Amendment on District residents,€ said Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large).

€District residents deserve a clean voting rights bill, and I stand with Congresswoman Norton in opposing Sen. Ensign€s unacceptable amendment.€

€I am extremely disappointed that despite all of our efforts, we cannot get the House and Senate to pass a clean D.C. Voting Rights bill that would afford District citizens a basic step toward full enfranchisement,€ said Councilmember Michael Brown (I-At-Large).

€We are committed to obtaining full voting representation in Congress for the District of Columbia. This latest setback is only a set up for a bigger comeback. We shall continue the struggle for democracy,€ Brown said.

"The fight is far from over," said Ilir Zherka, D.C. Vote Executive Director. "We will do everything in our power to pass the D.C. Voting Rights Act in this Congress. But, it's obvious that we'll also need to take our battle on guns to the next level. Unfortunately, we know that the NRA will continue to find a vehicle for the Ensign amendment and we will fight this at every step,€ Zherka said.

€As everyone regroups, giving up is not an option,€ Norton said.