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Friday Question of the Day – DC Voting Rights, At What Cost?

by Prince Of Petworth April 15, 2010 at 10:30 pm 44 Comments

Photo from PoPville flickr user noahdevereaux

In Thursday’s Washington Post there is an article titled Deal on DC vote in House to be revived:

Congressional leaders intend to resurrect a D.C. voting rights bill as early as next week, despite opposition from many city leaders to an amendment that would eliminate most of the District’s gun-control laws.

The final details of the bill were being worked out Wednesday, but House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said he expects the legislation to clear the House and to include some version of the pro-gun language that has bogged down the measure since last year.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the city’s non-voting House member, and congressional leaders said they are negotiating to weaken the gun amendment language. But Norton said she is unwilling to sacrifice the opportunity to win a long-sought voting seat for the District by insisting on a stand-alone bill.

[Ed. Note: We’ve since learned that Sen. Orin Hatch from Utah may filibuster the Bill anyway if it gets to the Senate because he doesn’t like the way the extra Utah representative will be voted in (state wide vs district wide election).]

But the question still remains – should the District of Columbia sacrifice it’s gun legislation in exchange for getting a vote in Congress?

  • anon

    I don’t exactly consider it a sacrifice. the gun laws in DC do little to stop criminals with guns. this legislation would do nothing to harm the city’s ability to fight crime. if anything the sacrifice is that DC’s representation would depend on ‘balancing out’ elsewhere. why should Utah residents have “more” representation than here?

    • Sleepy

      What it should say, is DC residents have sacrificed their voting rights, and their 2nd Amendment rights. This bill would restore both.

  • bosscrab

    Wow. What a biased poll you created there. Typically the order of responses should be YES, NO, No Opinion.

    But you started with NO.

    Basic principles of survey design would tell us that you’re going to get overstate no’s.


    • Prince Of Petworth

      Actually it is randomized so there would be no perceived bias. Click on it again and you will the order of responses changes every time.

      • Eric in Ledroit


      • bosscrab

        didn’t realize that. my bad!

      • PFL

        Haven’t you learned by now not to mess with the PoP?!?!?!?! :-) [most appropriate captcha: “the prepared]

  • ogden

    Thing is, if we get voting rights, we can repeal or enact any sacrificed gun law…..and anything else we want. So it isn’t really a sacrifice.

    Captcha: lechery there. Food for thought.

    • mitchell_pgh

      ogden, unfortunatly, that is not true. Even when Eleanor Holmes Norton has a vote, she will not be able to change gun laws in D.C. without the approval of Congress.

      Until we have States’ rights, we are powerless to the influence of congress. We currently have NO VOICE in a government where we are forced to pay the highest taxes. The 23rd amendment basically granted us “equal to the least” number of electoral votes… that’s basically our one time to actually have a vote that counts.

      The more I learn, the more outraged I become. We have a population that surpass Wyoming, yet they have two senators and a representative. We have been trying to get ONE person in congress for over two hundred years, and we have to wait because some conservative member of congress from another state doesn’t like the way their state will receive another member of the house!?

      At some point, the people of D.C. will simply demand the vote. An not just one… but the three we deserve.

  • i want a gun and a vote in congress. win-win. lol.

    • briefly

      second. Anyone who thinks we have a gun ban in DC lives in a better neighborhood than I do. I want the same gun laws as VA: permits for weapons and concealed carry and massive penalties for misuse of the weapon. This city is flooded with guns, its time we recognize that. Reference the slaughter a couple weeks ago if you doubt.

  • DB

    But what if the attorneys are correct–those who argue that the voting rights bill as written cannot survive constitutional challenge.

    The repeal of all gun laws would still be quite real while the “vote” will be quite illusory.

    Also, a Delegate Norton vote does not alter congressional oversight over DC. The rider essentially could be interpreted to alter home rule to not include firearm regulation authority. If so, only congress can restore such authority back. Repealing the rider requires congress. If congress cared, the rider wouldn’t be there.

    Net effect could then be no vote, no gun laws (none?), and no congressional will to restore local authority to regulate firearms.

  • West Kansas

    We live in a country that has more guns than people. Pretending that our passive-aggressive municipal gun restrictions will disarm criminals is to deny the reality that we are surrounded by Virginia and Maryland.

    There’s a solution for gun crime. You address it by reducing the socio-economic causes of crime, not by trying to interdict small, easily smuggled, high-demand, high-profit objects. An hour of legislative effort spent on improving schools, or reducing teen pregnancy, or encouraging stable two-parent homes, or establishing drug harm-reduction programs, will pay far more crime-reduction dividends than an hour spent on this tired emotional gun-control bickering.

    • Clint Eastwood

      +1, though I believe it’s 9 guns for every 10 people.

      People argued that Heller was going to open the floodgates. How many crimes have been commited with registered guns post-Heller? Yeah, that’s right. Zero.

  • Old timer

    Is it true that before they sought home rule, DC residents didn’t have to pay federal taxes? Let’s go back to the way it was before, screw this statehood stuff….

    • Old Timer too

      I agree no taxes. Screw the EHN vote thing. Unless we are going to get more autonomy one out of 437 does not make a difference. Instead District residents will be told “we gave you your damn vote, now shut up.” Give me no fed taxes any day. If EHN gets the vote, shutter DCVote, dissolve the Shadow Delegation (what do they do anyway) and call it day b/c that is all DC will ever get.

    • MLD

      I’m pretty sure that’s not true – DC residents have always had to pay federal taxes.

      My CAPTCHA was “weaponry theme”

  • ET

    Yes but I don’t love the choice. And I like even less that it is being forced on us.

    For me gun control wasn’t about keeping guns out of the hands of criminals (because that ain’t gonna happen – they will just buy them in Virginia) but keeping them out of the hands of my idiot neighbors who think a weapon will make them safe but who don’t know how to properly store and secure them much less have the training to be able to use them without either shooting their neighbor/cop or having the gun taken from them and being shot with it. Or having their house broken into and having their weapon stolen and used in the commission of more crimes which necessitates them buying a replacement because of all the weapons in the hands of criminals.

  • What is the point of gaining rights at the expense of other rights?

  • saf

    We need a none of the above. Forget this token stuff, I really do believe that we should continue to agitate for statehood.

  • ed

    Just a cursory look at the history of voting rights and statehood in DC shows one that both have some real barriers- constitutional, political, etc.



    I agree that these issues should be resolved somehow, but sadly the barriers are huge.

    Captcha: “dampers Mayor”

  • Retrocession back to Maryland…

    • briefly

      second second!

  • DCster

    It doesn’t make sense to trade the right of our council to ever vote on strengthening gun laws (with there being little likelihood an NRA-influenced Congress ever restore that right) in exchange for one vote in Congress (which could possibly be revoked by either a Republican-controlled Congress or by the courts). DB is correct, we could have weaker gun laws and the continued denial of any federal voting rights. So, not a win-win situation, even for those who dislike our current gun laws.

  • Mandy

    The only way any states got the power to vote was through the barrel of a gun anyway. Get rid of the gun laws and we’ll take our other rights.

  • cookietime420

    I’m a purist on this issue. I want two senators and a rep. No strings attached. I ain’t budging.

    If that won’t happen, then I want to take voting rights AWAY from Wyoming which has 544,270 residents to DC’s 599,657. If they get two senators and a rep, why the f**k can’t we? Don’t think it matters? Two works: Dick Cheney.

  • Jack

    Come sometime 2011 we’re likely to have the gun laws taken away by Congress anyway. There isn’t going to be another time in the next 10 years where DC has the favorable position it does now in Congress. Move on it now or resign to wait a long time.

  • Anonymous

    Two votes in the Senate, and they can have their guns.

  • Thor

    I think our gun laws are just a formality. All the bad guys have guns or can get them easily so there is no point in sacrificing voting right for that.

    The next step should be fighting for statehood and maybe we’ll get it in… i don’t know… another 200 years?

    • Anonymous

      sometimes a single gun charge is the difference between a violent thug off the street and a violent thug on the street.

      • ontarioroader

        Federal firearms laws would still stand if DC gets full gun rights back. 99% of gun crime in DC could easily be prosecuted under federal violations; felon in possession, underage possession, obliterated serial #. As someone else suggested, just have licensed concealed carry like 35+ other states, and large penalties for violation of them. The current law is BS – a $450 pistol ends up costing over $800 with made-up fees and paperwork.

        • DCster

          I think DC’s restrictive gun laws are good – proliferating guns will only lead to more accidents (see the DC starbucks guy shooting himself in the foot). I also don’t think having concealed guns would reduce crime (granted, it’s hard to determine causality because there are many things that contribute to crime trends).
          I think the problem is loose laws that lead to gun trafficking from Virginia and Maryland. There, straw purchasers at gun sales, unreported gun theft or ‘loss’ and unregulated gun resale contributes to the significant gun crime in DC. DC may not be able to tell Virginia and Maryland how to better regulate guns in their states, but we most definitely should not allow them (through Congress) to determine gun laws for us.

  • I personally don’t think DC should have a vote in Congress, at least not this way… the Constitution was written specifically to keep DC from having a vote. Attempts to give DC a vote without changing the Constitution are just lazy. It should take a Constitutional amendment, which I would totally support. But to charge a federal tax on DC residents without giving them a vote is bogus. Get rid of federal taxes. That should be your poll PoP, would you rather have a vote or no federal taxes? I know DC taxes would probably go way up, but my bet is it would go 75-25 for no federal taxes.

  • DeepDarkDiamond

    I’m kind of outraged that the GOP is insisting that Utah get an extra representative as the price of DC getting representation. If it is right for DC to have representation as a moral issue then it is outrageous to tie strings to it. Whether or not DC residents get a voice in Congress should not depend on Utah residents getting more voices in Congress. That’s kind of the definition of “second class citizens” isn’t it?

    • ah

      Moral issues are rarely resolved in politics through pure methods.

      Keep in mind that after the census the extra representative may be allocated to another state, and they may or may not be an R.

      I’m surprised that the Rs would agree to make this change now, since the extra rep may get less than a year in office, if that.

    • SDJ

      Well, from my understanding, it would be a temporary expansion of the House. So it would be boosted to 437, but then back down to 435 with the next census, but DC gets to keep its vote.

      Since Utah is growing and was so close to getting another Rep., they probably won’t lose theirs during the reapportioning of districts.

  • [email protected]

    I would prefer no taxation and no representation.
    Lacking that, full statehood representation if I have to pay taxes.

  • RD

    sounds like a win-win for civil liberties

  • cookietime420: i’m with you

    Can you see the ads?

    “Come visit our Nation’s Capitol and get shot at, courtesy of your very own state’s delegation, which won’t let DC ban or regulate guns!”

  • Prince Of Petworth

    The bill has been pulled:


    I had a feeling this was gonna happen.

    • Mal

      I’m okay with that. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice anything for a right that we should have. Either give us representation or stop taxing us.


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