America is coping with the worst financial crisis in a century according to Alan Greenspan, is rebuilding from two destructive hurricanes, and is waging two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yet Congress found nearly four hours of floor time in the last two days to re-write a local gun ordinance.
Yesterday's vote in the U.S. House of Representatives - to second-guess Washington, D.C.'s efforts to re-write its gun laws in response to this summer's Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment - was a charade. That's the only way to describe it.
At the behest of the National Rifle Association, Members of Congress from Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas - and my home state of Indiana - took it on themselves to tell local officials what they can and cannot do, over and above what is required by the Constitution, in writing its gun laws.
It's hard to know whether the District of Columbia should be flattered or offended.
Either way, not only the District's gun laws, but also the Supreme Court's opinion on what is "presumptively lawful," apparently aren't extreme enough for the NRA.
Rep. Travis Childers (MS) was lead sponsor of the bill. I wonder how cities in his district - Corinth, Columbus, Tupelo - would feel about Congress taking time off from national issues to re-write their local ordinances?
This bill teaches some fundamental lessons. The NRA either intentionally misled the American people, or was just grossly incompetent, about its efforts to re-write D.C.'s gun laws. They in turn showed why the gun lobby shouldn't be allowed to write laws for any city - especially our nation's capital with its unique security needs.
Early drafts of the NRA bill would have permitted people to carry assault weapons openly on the streets of Washington, D.C. By stripping D.C. of its regulations, the District would have had no legal protection left against this eventuality. NRA lobbyists denied this fact even when they were confronted with the language of their own bill.
When legal analyses from the Brady Center and separately from the House Oversight Committee staff made it clear that the NRA was wrong, the NRA mocked the lawyers involved by saying their degrees must have come from Disney World.
Only just before the bill was introduced on the House floor did the NRA fix their "mistake" and amend the legislation to prohibit open-carrying of assault weapons. This shameless effort should have been the final nail in the coffin of whatever credibility the gun lobby had left.
Here are the simple facts: Any Member of Congress truly concerned with D.C.'s compliance with the Supreme Court decision in D.C. v. Heller could have voted for a perfectly suitable option introduced by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman (CA) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.).
The Norton/Waxman alternative would have required the District to follow Justice Scalia's opinion in the Heller decision, which is exactly what the D.C. City Council had been working on since the end of June and finally finished Tuesday morning.
In fact, the D.C. Council passed a new gun ordinance that fully complies with all the issues raised in the Heller decision the same morning that Congress was debating whether to take the power to pass such an ordinance away from them.
Regrettably, the bill that passed the House yesterday went far beyond the Norton/Waxman bill - and far beyond what the Heller decision itself requires. Instead the House adopted the gun lobby agenda that nothing should ever be done to "discourage" gun ownership and possession.
I am hopeful that the Senate will keep this dangerous bill from moving any further.