Editorial: Politics of the Gun

For Immediate Release:

June 13, 2009

Contact:Editorial Board

New York Times

Congress has shamefully caved in, yet again, to the gun lobby and abandoned the effort to grant the long-suffering District of Columbia a voting representative in the House. Hopes for passage were high this year, until the historic measure was poisoned in the Senate with an amendment to strip the district’s government of its power to enact responsible gun control laws.

Sadly, the district’s need for strong controls was dramatized Wednesday when a man the authorities identified as a white supremacist opened fire with a rifle and killed a guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The gun lobby galvanized anti-gun control Republicans and timorous Democrats in both houses to stop the representation bill in its tracks. Pleas from district officials about public safety drew no interest from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi likewise failed to sway Democrats too cowardly to stand up to the gun lobby in next year’s elections.

Most disappointing, President Obama showed no appetite to confront the gun lobby and campaign for a clean bill. He had already signaled his weakness when he signed a credit card reform law that included another senseless gun lobby diktat — to allow people to carry loaded guns in national parks.

Representative Steny Hoyer conceded on Tuesday that the votes for passage had evaporated. He noted disagreement among city officials. Some wanted acceptance of the amended measure because the city’s chance for a voting representative was unlikely to occur again soon.

The net effect is to maintain the district as a laboratory for Congress’s plantation whims. And also, of course, to add swagger to the gun lobby. It does not have nearly the Election Day clout that its supporters, and those who cower before it, fear — but is now free to attach its repressive District of Columbia measure to the next bill that comes along.

All Americans, not just residents of the nation’s capital, should worry that an obeisant Congress and administration has proved no test for the gun lobby’s agenda.

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