Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, wants to prevent the District of Columbia from banning pistol-toting individuals the right of entry into public places. In McCain's world, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Wyatt Earp's Tombstone, even the District's schools and recreation centers would be accessible to folks carrying licensed concealed weapons -- a fine environment for kids!
And it's not only McCain who thinks this convoluted way. Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, was a co-sponsor of McCain's as yet unsuccessful bill to repeal the District's stringent gun restrictions, which was also supported by a sizable number of their colleagues in Congress. These are all real tough guys, who give no quarter in seeking to uphold what they perceive to be the Second Amendment right of citizens to use firearms in self-defense outside the home. But when it comes to these lawmakers' own workplace, the right to carry a weapon vanishes in a millisecond in the name of security. Is their personal safety more important than that of the general population in the nation's capital?
The McCain bill would also repeal the District's ban on teenagers possessing assault rifles and the city's prohibition against handgun ownership by individuals who have committed violent or drug-related misdemeanors unrelated to domestic violence. Moreover, the proposal would relax restrictions on possession of firearms by people who at some point had voluntarily committed themselves to a mental institution. If you were a landlord in DC, you could not bar any tenant from possessing and carrying a handgun on your property as far as McCain and company are concerned.
Meanwhile, if authorities catch you with so much as a firecracker on your person within a five block radius of the U.S. Capitol, you would be immediately taken into custody for questioning. It goes without saying that possessing a gun of any kind (including a plastic replica) on the Capitol grounds is a serious offense. But did you know that you would also run into trouble if you were found to be carrying a simple pocket knife when seeking entry into any of the government buildings on Capitol Hill?
It must be nice to work in surroundings where you have supreme confidence that no deranged individual could burst through the door with guns blazing.
I live in the District. I served in the Army and fired guns. I don't like guns, especially the idea of granting the right to "pack heat" outside the home to just about anyone who wants it, regardless of age, temperament, or proclivities; and the majority of my fellow citizens in the nation's capital share my sentiments. We resent outsiders trying to repeal our local government's attempt to reduce the presence of handguns on the streets of our community.
If legislators on Capitol Hill want to turn back the clock to the days of Wild Bill Hickok in their respective states and districts, go right ahead. But they add hypocrisy to arrogance when they seek to impose their lax firearm standards on the unwilling citizenry of the District of Columbia while refusing to assume the same risk.
Edward Flattau is an environmental columnist residing in Washington, D.C. and the author of the forthcoming book, Green Morality, due for release at the end of the summer.