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October 5, 2009

We Like Our Lives

In March of this year, the “D.C. House Voting Rights Act” was put on indefinite hold in the House of Representatives when Democratic leaders couldn’t figure out how to move the bill without a harmful gun amendment attached. The bill would have granted D.C. residents voting representation in Congress for the first time ever (the United States is the only democracy on earth that denies residents of its capital such representation).

The gun amendment in question was drafted by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and sponsored by Senator John Ensign (R-NV). It would repeal the District of Columbia’s new gun laws across the board and prohibit the D.C. Council from enacting any law in the future that would “unduly burden the ability of persons” to obtain and possess firearms (changes that were not called for in the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller ruling by the Supreme Court).

Earlier this year, Senator Ensign defended his amendment with noble-sounding references to “the Framers,” “the Constitution” and “Second Amendment rights.”

However, much has happened since then. In June, Senator Ensign admitted to an extramarital affair with a campaign staffer who was married to an employee in his D.C. office. The scandal led Ensign to resign his position as the Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. The FBI has now opened an investigation into the matter that implicates another NRA Favorite Son, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).

Ensign has apparently become so radioactive that one Senate aide commented, “[he] doesn’t have a lot of friends up here right now.” That’s unfortunate, because in the wake of his gun amendment, Capitol Hill was the only place in the District of Columbia the Senator had friends to begin with.

Under the weight of this pressure, Ensign made some incredibly candid and revealing remarks last Tuesday during a Senate Finance Committee debate on health care legislation. Commenting on the fact that the U.S. has a poor record on preventable deaths compared to other industrialized nations, the Senator suggested those statistics were unfair because they include deaths from auto accidents and gun violence. “When you take into account cultural factors—the fact that we drive cars a lot more than any other country; we are much more mobile,” Ensign said. “If you take out accidental deaths due to car accidents, and you take out gun deaths—because we like our guns in the United States and there are a lot more guns deaths in the United States—you take out those two things, you adjust those, and we are actually better in terms of survival rates.” You can view a video of Senator Ensign’s remarks here.

There you have it, victims and survivors of gun violence in D.C.—you simply don’t count. And if you District residents don’t want to abolish your firearm laws and make it easier for lunatics to get guns, well tough luck, that’s just one “cultural factor” you’re going to have to get used to.

Hmmmm... Thanks, but no thanks. As a D.C. resident myself, I can assure both Senator Ensign and the NRA that you might like your guns, but we like our lives and loved ones even more.

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