NEW YORK –– Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statements applauding the House passage of H.R. 51, legislation to make Washington, D.C. the 51st state. The bill, which was introduced by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), passed in the House with a 52-vote margin. H.R. 51 has 227 co-sponsors — more than half of the House — and now awaits a Senate vote.
“D.C. statehood is a gun safety issue,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “It is disgraceful that voters in the District have been excluded from the national legislative conversation for so many years — especially when it comes to gun violence prevention. The Senate should follow the House’s lead and pass this vital legislation.”
“For years, D.C. has been excluded from the national conversation about gun violence in America. This is an important step toward having a meaningful voice and vote in our federal government,” said Angelina Harvey, a volunteer with the D.C. chapter of Moms Demand Action. “As a second generation D.C. resident, I am excited by this historic vote in favor of D.C. statehood and encourage the Senate to swiftly pass this legislation.”
“This is a long overdue vote for D.C. residents,” said Shayna Druckman, a volunteer with the George Washington University Students Demand Action in Washington D.C. “It is not an accident that the majority of our residents are people of color and for years have been excluded from national legislative conversations — including on gun safety. This is one important step to adequately address rising gun violence in the District.”
D.C. currently has the highest rate of gun homicide in the country, fueled by guns trafficked into the city from states with weaker laws. But without voting representation in Congress, D.C. has no say in the much-needed federal legislative solution. Also, without statehood, D.C.’s own gun violence prevention laws are always at risk of congressional interference. Senators and Members of Congress from other states have tried multiple times to rewrite the District’s gun laws, and if that legislation were to pass in Congress — where D.C. has no vote — D.C. would have no recourse. Statehood would allow D.C. residents voting representation in the House of Representatives and Senate, including on gun safety legislation in Congress, create legislative autonomy, and limit the ability of the executive branch to deploy military force on D.C. residents — which has been recently used on protestors.
House passage comes after several weeks of historic protests led by civil rights and racial justice organizations, organizers and advocates across the nation following the killing of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer. In many cases, the protests have been met with further incidents of police brutality across America, including in D.C. The Trump administration ordered U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops to disperse peaceful D.C. protesters outside the White House, subjecting them to tear gas, rubber bullets, and military force for a photo opportunity 25 minutes before the citywide curfew. The move was criticized by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser who called the Trump administration’s deployment of troops to the area “an invasion” and by retired military commanders who said the troops should never have been there in the first place, according to the New York Times.
D.C. statehood is an important component of the national discussion around voter suppression and representation. In April, following a virtual conversation with Fair Fight Action founder Stacey Abrams, Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action released a set of principles to protect voting rights and expand voter access amid the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, states around the country, most recently Georgia and Kentucky, have seen long lines or closures at the polls, with predominantly Black precincts experiencing the worst problems.
In D.C., Black Washingtonians are 19 times as likely to die by guns as white people. Overall, Black Americans are 10 times as likely as white Americans to die by gun homicide and Black children and teens are 14 times as likely than their white peers to die by gun homicide. And according to Mapping Police Violence, Black Americans account for only 13 percent of the population but are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people.