Guns

D.C. Voting Rights: Gunned Down?

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A bill to add a voting member of Congress for the District of Columbia (and another to Utah simultaneously, so that delicate balance of Dem/GOP power wouldn't be disrupted and kill the idea dead) passes the Senate—but is currently stalled in the House since the Senate added a measure that would overturn D.C. existing gun possession restrictions, and House Dems don't like that a bit.

D.C. City Council member Mary Cheh contemplates continuing to support the bill–if the same gun laws apply to the Capitol and federal buildings.

Steven Chapman was against the idea of D.C. voting rights, on constitutional grounds, last week at Reason Online.

NEXT: Further Down the Revolutionary Road

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  1. Of course Congress doesn’t like the idea of guns being legal in DC – they are afraid we serfs will use them to take our contry back and RESTORE the Constitution.

  2. On Wednesday, Council member Mary Cheh sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer asking that if the gun amendment goes forward, a new amendment should be added to apply the same gun rules to the Capitol and federal buildings.

    Sounds like a good deal to me. Of course, whenever I go to Austin to visit my state representatives I drop by the security desk, show the officers my concealed handgun license, and skip the line for the metal detectors. We Texans have been doing that for a decade now, and none of our concealed handguns have caused any problems whatsoever.

    I understand Virginia has pretty much the same law. Maybe that’s why its representatives voted for the amendment.

    Reciprocity with the federal government (post offices, military bases, and such) would sure save a lot of hassle.

  3. Isn’t this blatantly unconstitutional?

  4. Uh, the House passed a bill on Sept. 17 2008 with the exact wording as the Ensign amendment (S.Amdt. 575) to the “District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009.”

    They will pass it when they get around to it. Probably too much pork to vote on right now though; it’s probably distracting them.

  5. Isn’t this blatantly unconstitutional?

    Unless they are granting DC statehood first, Yes.

  6. I’m all for DC residents getting representation, but this is not the best method to give it to them. Part of DC was already ceeded to Virginia. Just turn the rest of it over to Maryland except for the non-residential areas immediately surrounding the White House, Mall, Capital Hill, and Supreme Court. There is no reason for the residential parts of DC to be part of a federal district.

  7. Isn’t this blatantly unconstitutional?

    Only if it goes into force without passage of two-thirds of the House and Senate followed by ratification.

  8. “On Wednesday, Council member Mary Cheh sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer asking that if the gun amendment goes forward, a new amendment should be added to apply the same gun rules to the Capitol and federal buildings.”

    To give you an idea of what we are dealing with here in DC, the Ensign amendment says that DC can continue to prohibit concealed carry. She didn’t even read the bill.

  9. Two things:

    Yeah, fucking read the constitution first (and then probably amend it), but on principle I think a way should eventually be made to give those citizens who are taxed in the territories (like DC, Guam, Puerto Rico) some representation in the body that decides those taxes.

    Second, what the fuck with the gun rights amendment to the bill? I’m all about making guns legal and carry-able in DC, but this is poison pill bullshit plain-and-simple. Why is it so damn hard for a rep bill to be a rep bill and a gun bill to be a gun bill and never the twain shall meet?

  10. Sticking an amendment that the opposition despises on a bill that said opposition really wants would probably be the most fun you could have in Congress. It’s like a political game of Battleship:

    “E,7”
    “You sunk my D.C. Representative bill!”

  11. El,

    If they are going to pass an unconstitutional law at least it will partially restore a constitutional right. That would be a “lose/win”.

  12. SIV,

    LOL. I don’t know; the whole “let’s play games with procedure” thing really goes up my ass sideways. My thing really is that neither side really have a prayer of winning their arguments in *this* format, and so both just use the opportunity to dick around and guarantee that no progress is made.

    Instead of someone on the conservative side laying out an incremental agenda for taking back gun rights. (The courts can only take this stuff so far, and like we saw in Heller what they provide in the end usually ends up mangled almost beyond usefulness anyway.)

    Instead of, well, *anyone* doing the heavy lifting of getting the ball rolling on a Constitutional Amendment so that people who live in territories are not taxed and regulated without representation. The particular case of DC should actually be easier than most (like someone said, the residential areas are on the outskirts; it is easier to get Maryland or Virginia to take those areas back than any other legal solution), but that still leaves most territorial citizens out in the rain.

    Instead of, like, someone doing their job.

  13. “I’m all for DC residents getting representation, but this is not the best method to give it to them. Part of DC was already ceeded to Virginia. Just turn the rest of it over to Maryland except for the non-residential areas immediately surrounding the White House, Mall, Capital Hill, and Supreme Court. There is no reason for the residential parts of DC to be part of a federal district.”

    The only problem with that is that the three homeless guys living next to the Washington Monument might get to choose the next President of the United States (unless that amenment is repealed).

  14. The question of returning parts of DC to Maryland is an interesting one. It’s pretty certain that Maryland absolutely does not want DC back.

    The question is, do they have to consent to having territory added to their state? The constitution only deals with breaking off parts of states, and combining states together; it doesn’t address whether Congress can unilaterally add territory which did not previously belong to any state.

  15. There is another way to deal with this: move the capital into the middle of the country and give DC back to the British Empire.

  16. give DC back to the British Empire.

    Heck give it back to the Patowmack’s and there’ll be a casino out of the deal.

  17. lmnop sez so both just use the opportunity to dick around and guarantee that no progress is made.

    Gawds how I wish Congress would do more of this.

  18. Ironic you fool! We’re America dammit! We take territory, we don’t give it away!

    DC is probably gonna get their voting rights but not on their terms. Isn’t that the crux of compromise?

  19. Gawds how I wish Congress would do more of this.

    Really? You wish that Congress would do less to roll back gun restrictions and also drag their feet on granting equal rights to territorial citizens?

    Really?

    We all define “progress” differently, but I tend to think that structures working well in the process sense are better than structures not working well, on the basis that the latter reduces confidence that the whole enterprise is worth paying attention to/changing/etc.. It’s fatalistic and ultimately self-destructive to simply wish for gridlock forever. Do you really want to be trapped in today’s tax and regulatory atmosphere *for all time*? If not, you really don’t actually want gridlock. You just don’t like whose in charge right now. Which is totally cool, but good luck convincing anyone to help get the boss replaced if you keep saying the boss shouldn’t work in the first place.

  20. To hell with DC voting rights. They want all the privileges of a state sans the responsibilities.

    If you want to vote for members of Congress, don’t live in the DC area.
    If it’s really that important to you.

  21. LMNOP,
    The only “progress” I could see coming out of this is a blatantly unconstitutional law giving an entity that is not a state voting representation in Congress and no advance on gun rights. So I figure dickering is better.

  22. Economist,

    Ah but you don’t know your classics.

    “To an imperial city, nothing is inconsistent which is expedient” Phormio of Athens

  23. Naga,
    Too true.

  24. Why is it so damn hard for a rep bill to be a rep bill and a gun bill to be a gun bill and never the twain shall meet?

    Have you met the U.S. Congress?

    it is easier to get Maryland or Virginia to take those areas back than any other legal solution

    Anyone ask Maryland and Virginia their opinion?

    There is another way to deal with this: move the capital into the middle of the country and give DC back to the British Empire.

    The British Empire no longer exists. You could maybe move the UN there, but I’d want a pretty deep moat.

  25. I’ve lived in D.C. for seven years and pay federal income taxes, so I would like to have a vote in Congress. (Actually, I’m somewhat torn on that, since my Member would almost certainly be a far-left Democrat. So I should say I would theoretically like to have a vote in Congress.) But I’m very concerned about the legislation being considered.

    It is unconstitutional, and the District clause in the Constitution is a red herring. If Congress can give D.C. a House vote because of the District clause, it could give D.C. 100 House votes and 25 senators, if it so chose. It could give D.C. a royal family.

    All that said, I am troubled by the fact that constitutional amendments have failed in the past. D.C. has a population of 591,833; Wyoming’s is 532,668 and Vermont’s is 621,270. While representation for D.C. is currently unconstitutional, I don’t see much justification for rejecting any efforts to make it so.

    I’m also not convinced by the argument that D.C. was meant to be eternally disenfranchised. While I am far less informed about these matters than Jonathan Turley, whom Steve Chapman cites, it has always been my understanding that after President Washington determined that the borders of D.C. would encompass already-existing communities like Georgetown and Alexandria that the representation issue would be rectified.

    Even if I’m wrong about that, I think the notion that D.C. residents don’t need formal representation because our proximity to Congress gives us clout is just absurd. I don’t see many Members of Congress hanging around Columbia Heights, and I don’t think many senators spend their off time in Anacostia.

  26. Gotta love illiterates who can’t read the Constitution.

    Retards we can believe in!

  27. ‘Yeah, fucking read the constitution first (and then probably amend it), but on principle I think a way should eventually be made to give those citizens who are taxed in the territories (like DC, Guam, Puerto Rico) some representation in the body that decides those taxes.’

    How about this (I’m in a constructive mood):

    A constitutional amendment by which all U.S. territories (D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgins) have one House member each, and these House members only vote on bills affecting one or more of the territories. This would mean that if a bill doesn’t apply to any territories, the territorial reps don’t get a vote. They also don’t get Senators. (If a bill applies to the regular U.S. as well as the territories, there will be two separate votes: One vote on a version of the bill minus the territorial application, in which the territorial reps don’t vote, and if that passes, another vote on applying the bill to the territories, where the territorial reps have a vote).

    Also, instead of just giving Presidential electors to D.C. without giving electors to the other territories (as the 23rd Amendment provides), allow the territories collectively to choose electors, as if the territories together made up one state.

  28. Isn’t this blatantly unconstitutional?

    Now that’s what I call a Friday Funny.

    If Congress stopped passing laws just because they were blatantly unconstitutional, the Capitol would

    If they are going to pass an unconstitutional law at least it will partially restore a constitutional right. That would be a “lose/win”.

    I don’t see how even SCOTUS could get around to approving a DC voting representative, so it would likely turn into a straight win. But I’m probably underestimating SCOTUS’ ability to torture the Constitution into saying whatever is expedient.

  29. Sorry, Maryland. You gave it up, you get it back. Them’s the breaks.

  30. Isn’t this blatantly unconstitutional?

    And what’s your point?

  31. ‘I don’t see how even SCOTUS could get around to approving a DC voting representative, so it would likely turn into a straight win. But I’m probably underestimating SCOTUS’ ability to torture the Constitution into saying whatever is expedient.’

    If the federal courts ruled on the merits of a voting DC representative, they would probably have to strike it down. But how would they get to the merits? They may well find the issue a nonjusticiable political question. While the federal courts have on at least one occasion interfered with internal Congressional operations, generally they refuse to do so, even if there’s a constitutional issue.

  32. Constitution, schmonstitution! We don’t need no stinking rule of law!

  33. D.C. has a population of 591,833; Wyoming’s is 532,668 and Vermont’s is 621,270. While representation for D.C. is currently unconstitutional, I don’t see much justification for rejecting any efforts to make it so.

    And New York City has a population of over 7 million, why don’t they get two senators? What about every other city in the US that has a higher population (and a more natural reason for being so populous than happening to be the home of the feral government).

    Vermont, Delaware, and other small Eastern states are by-products of the way the English colonized North America. There’s also a limit to how large an area a state can cover without becoming ungovernable. Trying to govern a gigantic, sparsely populated state combining Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas, for instance, would be a disaster. Look at the problems Alaska has delivering services to the North Slope. So that’s the justification for Wyoming. DC doesn’t fit any of these criteria.

  34. tulpa:
    “New York City has a population of over 7 million, why don’t they get two senators?”

    Schumer, Gillibrand

    “feral government”? I like that! 😉

    “There’s also a limit to how large an area a state can cover without becoming ungovernable. Trying to govern a gigantic, sparsely populated state combining Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas, for instance, would be a disaster.”

    You mean like Texas? I conclude, then, that DC, being the most compact state, sould be immensely more easily governable. But I can’t hardly see through all the cognitive dissonance in the air.

  35. Tupla,

    I would be very happy to have the territory I live in revert to Maryland and, as a resident of “Washington, MD”, share two senators with the rest of the state of Maryland. Residents of New York, NY share two senators with the rest of the state of New York.

  36. Another way for this problem to be solved is for all fifty states to simultaneously secede -thus leaving Washington, DC as the entirety of the United States of America and alone to deal with the crippling debt that the congressvermin have given us. This sounds like a better idea every single day.

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