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Bully Marco Rubio

February 4, 2017

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“Sen. Marco Rubio has a well-deserved reputation for being a windbag who huffs and puffs but never quite blows anything down.” Colbert King, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post.

Senator Marco Rubio (R – Florida) didn’t have the cojones to act on his own “reservations” and vote against confirming Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, but he has no problem foisting his own agenda on the unwilling residents of the District of Columbia who can’t fight back.

In mid-January, Rubio re-introduced the NRA-backed (and probably NRA-drafted) “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” which would gut DC’s tough gun control laws and strip the DC council of the authority to pass any future gun legislation. The bill would also make it easy to get a concealed weapon permit and recognize such permits granted by other states.  In other words, the residents of Washington, DC would have no voice in determining the laws governing guns in their own community. With Trump now in the White House, Rubio’s pet project has a much better chance to succeed.

Bringing more guns into the Nation’s Capital has been a peculiar hobby horse for Rubio ever since he arrived in the Senate in 2010.  He has used the issue to raise his political profile and get the NRA’s backing for his presidential ambitions.  The NRA raised his rating from B+ to A after he first introduced the bill in 2015. Back in 2013, Rubio claimed that gun violence “skyrocketed” after DC passed some of the nation’s strictest gun laws in 1976–an assertion that is misleading at best. (Gun violence in DC has declined greatly after peaking in the early 90s during the crack epidemic that devastated DC and other cities, and it ignores other factors such as the easy availability of guns with almost no questions asked just by crossing the Potomac into Virginia.)

For those who dozed through high school civics classes (do they still have civics classes?), the 680,000 residents of Washington, DC have no voting representation in Congress, even though the city has a greater population than the states of Wyoming or Vermont. Moreover, Congress has the power to overturn DC laws that it doesn’t like.  When Democrats control the committees that control DC affairs, Congress generally leaves the city alone, but when Republicans are in charge they love to meddle out of spite just because they can.  Local DC politics are very liberal and progressive and overwhelmingly Democratic.  (Trump got 4 percent of the vote in DC.) The Republican love of states’ rights simply doesn’t apply to the District of Columbia.

DC voters have approved recreational use of marijuana, use of local tax money to help pay for abortions for low-income women, and a Death With Dignity law similar to the one that Oregon has.  All of these are now threatened by Congressional disapproval.  There is a formal (and rarely used) process by which Congress can override DC laws by passing a disapproval resolution within 30 days. That also requires a presidential signature, which wasn’t going to happen under Obama, but almost certainly would under Trump. But there is also another much easier and more common way to kill local DC laws, which is to attach riders dictating DC law to must-pass legislation.

But it is the Republican insistence on allowing unregulated gun possession that is most dangerous and galling to the people who actually live in Washington, DC.  Colbert King and others have highlighted the hypocrisy of people like Rubio who are quite happy to ban guns of any kind from the Capitol for their own safety, while working to give them free run in the capital city regardless of the hazard they pose for the people of DC.

As King wrote: “If the presence of a gun-toting public is good enough for the streets of our nation’s capital, shouldn’t the same be good enough on congressional grounds?”

[Disclosure: I lived and worked in Washington, DC for four decades, and still have strong ties there as well as a deep love for the city itself.]

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