MORE BLOWS TO FREEDOM IN YOUR NATION’S CAPITAL
TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION FOR MORE PEOPLE THAN LIVE IN VERMONT OR WYOMING
First of all, let’s get the population facts out of the way:
DC POPULATION: 672,228
VERMONT POPULATION: 626,042
WYOMING POPULATION: 586,107
Vermont has two Senators and one Representative. Wyoming has two Senators and one Representative. DC: NONE
And, for the record, let’s dispense with the “Strict Constitution Constructionists” meme always thrown across the path of DC Statehood. Yes, the Constitution established the District of Columbia in 1790 to be administered by Congress. In fact, D.C. was ruled by Federally appointed commissioners for almost 200 years. Today the city is ruled by a locally elected mayor and city council and has been since 1976.
When members of Congress and the Courts cite the Constitutional clause establishing the District of Columbia as why D.C. is barred from having representation in Congress, they seem to think that because this is engraved in our most important Founding Document, it is like one of the Ten Commandments and cannot be changed. Of course they neglect the very significant changes that have occurred: the awarding of full rather than three-fifths humanity and citizenship of African Americans, the elimination of the clause that only property owners can vote in elections, the election of senators by the people (through the Electoral College), the granting of the vote to women, etc. etc. all of which are pretty fundamental changes, at least in my non-constitutionally expert opinion.
For decades now (about four if memory serves) D.C. residents have rattled the Congressional cage in continuing efforts to free ourselves from Congressional meddling into what are purely local affairs. But it has ben for naught.
One of the areas where we are continually thwarted, is local gun control laws which, until recently, have been the among the strictest in the nation. After all, we are a densely populated urban area – the most densely populated “state” in the Union - and one could reasonably argue that what works for Utah and Wyoming doesn’t necessarily work here. But judge after judge, court after court as well as the Supreme Court keeps on rolling back the laws that we’ve adopted to keep ourselves safe when it comes to guns and gun ownership. In Heller vs. The District of Columbia, the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that D.C.’s ban on individuals ownership of guns was unconstitutional, marking the first time that the Supreme Court disengaged the "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” phrase of the Second Amendment thus allowing individuals to own firearms without restriction to any militia or other organization.
Yesterday, in our continuing battle against unlimited, unfettered guns in our city, U.S. District Court Judge Richards J. Leon ruled that the D.C. Police Department’s inclusion of the licensing requirement to show a “good reason” for the necessity of owning a firearm, is unconstitutional. Yup. That’s right. Now I cannot imagine that anyone could not come up with a “good reason” to own a firearm (I was mugged twice, my home was broken into last month, my neighbor threatened me with bodily injury – the possibilities are pretty much open-ended.) But there you have it. Once again, we don’t get to choose how we want to regulate guns in our city.
Then too, there’s Congress’ recent intervention to prevent the expansion of D.C.’s marijuana law beyond medial purposes which initiative was overwhelmingly approved by us D.C. voters. In our past, Congress has stepped in to prevent needle exchange programs, abortions, issuing bonds and a host of other activities most states and cities do not have to get approval from Congress for. In 2013 us D.C. voters adopted an initiative that de-linked Congress’ interference in how the city spends our own locally collected tax dollars. The City does receive an annual Federal tax payment since 60% of the city’s land is tax exempt due to the Federal presence, a unique situation among American cities. But we weren’t talking about this pot of money. We thought that allowing us to figure out where to spend our own money was a no-brainer. After all, what other city in the United States of America is told by Congress (the House and Senate District Committees specifically) how to spend their own money? Answer: NONE. But apparently this “being able to spend our own money as we see fit” didn’t sit well with House District Committee Republicans.
Yesterday, the Republican controlled House District Committee voted to nullify the city’s efforts to enact this law (every D.C. Council proposed law cannot become final until after Congress has reviewed and approved it) and moved to nullify the initiative that was approved by 80% of D.C. residents and was supported by President Obama. (Perhaps his support of the measure was the death knell given that anything Obama approves of is toxic to Republicans.) The reasoning? It’s “unconstitutional” of course. Would you be pissed off if every law that your city passed had to be approved by the United States Congress? Of course you would. It’s not only that it’s irritating as hell that some Representative from Kentucky or Idaho or Missouri gets to nullify our laws and how we spend our money, but we also are faced with the uncertainty over whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge of our two Congressional oversight committees. We typically fare better under Democrats but it the end it doesn’t make for the easiest of governance.
So it both cases, the “good reason” clause of our gun license form and spending our own tax money the way we please are both thwarted by the Constitution. Ask yourself this question: How many laws that your City Council passed been overturned because they were determined to be unconstitutional?
Right. “Taxation Without Representation” is not only our license plate phrase, it is our reality.
Have a good day!