If You Pass This Bill, More Presidents Will Die


Congress is considering a bill that would remove several burdensome restrictions on gun possession that the District of Columbia retained even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its handgun ban and firearm storage requirements violated the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment Enforcement Act, introduced by Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and supported by dozens of Democrats in the House, would repeal D.C.'s onerous gun registration rules, lift the requirement that guns be kept unloaded and locked except in the face of an "immediate" threat, and narrow the legal definition of prohibited "machine guns" so that it no longer covers magazine-loaded semiautomatics, the most popular self-defense weapons.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) argues that the bill would allow people to carry "loaded AK-47s or .50-caliber sniper assault weapons openly in cars or in person," which would pose a "palpable risk…to the public safety of our residents" and create a challenge for "federal law enforcement and security officials in this city, where two presidents have been killed with handguns." D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier warns, "In attempted and successful assassinations around the world, the first step in attacking a motorcade is frequently to take out the security detail with semiautomatic and automatic firearms."

I'm not sure where to begin. The only provision of the bill that deals with carrying weapons applies  in the gun owner's "dwelling house or place of business or on other land possessed by that person." There's nothing about carrying loaded guns in public. AK-47s and all other "automatic firearms" would remain prohibited in any case. The two assassinated presidents to whom Norton refers are Abraham Lincoln, who was killed with a single-shot derringer, and James Garfield, who was killed with a revolver. (John Hinckley also used a revolver when he tried to kill Ronald Reagan.) Both are types of weapons that would remain legal in Washington no matter what Congress does.

I assume Holmes and Lanier are not suggesting would-be assassins are deterred by laws against carrying loaded weapons. Their concern seems to be that if Childers' bill passes the streets will be filled with law-abiding citizens openly carrying loaded rifles and shotguns, making the assassins harder to identify. Leaving aside the rather important point that the bill does not change the rules for carrying guns in public, here's a good way to tell who the assassins are: They're the ones who aren't openly carrying loaded weapons. 

In July I noted D.C.'s determination to continue flouting the Second Amendment.