Legal Times on Parker, DC Voting bill, NRA, etc.
Short version: Demos proposed a (to my mind, GROSSLY unconstitutional) bill to give DC a vote in the House, and by way of compensation to Republicans, give Utah an extra House seat, too. Republicans countered by proposing an amendment that would wipe out the DC handgun ban, and the bill died. Legal Times (subscription) has a story on the ensuring fingerpointing. Excerpts in extended remarks below.
For Robert Levy, your word is your bond. At least, that's what he wants to believe when it comes to what he says he's been told by the National Rifle Association.
The NRA is the largest pro-gun lobby in the country, with one of the largest and most effective lobbying machines on Capitol Hill, regardless of which party controls Congress.
In a March 22 meeting with NRA officials in the organization's D.C. office, Levy -- senior counsel in a lawsuit that the gun-rights lobby hailed as a victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned the District's 31-year-old gun ban in Parker v. District of Columbia -- was told that he "can take it to the bank" that the NRA "will not be doing anything that would prevent Parker from reaching the Supreme Court," Levy recalls.
But now, Levy believes the NRA has done just that.
Two weeks ago, when the D.C. voting-rights lobby was prepared to throw confetti, anticipating success in the House after a decades-old, controversial battle for voting representation, their dreams were suddenly dashed. And guns were the reason.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) made a motion to insert language into the D.C. voting-rights bill that would repeal the District's gun ban. But Democrats refused to vote on the motion, and the bill was stalled.
Pushing the legislation while the court case progresses could do more harm than good to gun rights, Levy argues, saying that if legislation repealing the gun ban were passed, it could moot the controversy, and the Supreme Court wouldn't take up the case, destroying what Levy sees as a golden opportunity for a definitive ruling on the Second Amendment.
Immediately after Smith's proposal, the NRA was suspected by opponents of being behind the move. Smith's office says that's not so.
"The NRA played no role. That was a decision made by Mr. Smith alone," says Beth McGinn, spokeswoman for Smith.
. . . . . .
Lawmakers, lobbyists, and Levy say the move to insert gun-ban language in the voting bill probably won't stick.
The language in the D.C. bill could have sent it back to the House Judiciary Committee, where some feared it would have died. But with the push of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the bill, introduced by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), is expected to be reintroduced in the House later this month, when Congress returns from recess, as a stand-alone bill.
The next mountain the D.C. voting-rights lobby will have to worry about climbing is the Republican side of the Senate.
"That's the real challenge. We're working to make sure we have enough support to avoid a filibuster," says Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote, a nonprofit educational and advocacy organization at the forefront of pushing the D.C. voting-rights bill. The group, which is helping to organize an April 16 Emancipation Day march to the Capitol, is also working to get President George W. Bush to rethink his threat to veto the legislation.
"It was unfortunate that the Democratic leadership was caught off guard by the parliamentary trick of inserting language to repeal the gun ban," Zherka says. "But we are regrouping."