GLAA supports federal gun law reforms, defends DC home rule

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin joins Pulse survivors at the March For Our Lives. Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid.

John Becker, GLAA’s Vice President for Political Affairs, issued the following statement on March 14 in response to an inquiry by Washington Blade reporter Lou Chibbaro, after a discussion among GLAA members:

GLAA stands with the majority of Americans who support common-sense reforms to our nation’s gun laws that would help prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands and get weapons of war out of our schools and off our streets. We support DC’s gun control law — one of the strongest in the country — and we strongly oppose any attempts by Congress to interfere in the District’s self-governance in this or any other matter.

As a civil rights group, GLAA has frequent occasion to invoke constitutional rights, especially freedom of speech and non-establishment of religion under the First Amendment, and Equal Protection and Due Process under the Fourteenth. No right is absolute. For example, there are well-recognized exceptions to free speech including slander and falsely crying “Fire!” in a crowded theater. The Second Amendment refers explicitly to a well-ordered militia, and the Founders adopted it in an era of muskets. Assault weapons with multi-round clips of armor-piercing bullets are vastly more powerful and deadly than anything known to the Founders.

By the maximalist logic of the gun lobby, individual citizens could equally demand the right to possess rocket launchers. But the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) stated that the Second Amendment does not grant a “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The Court cited examples of “presumptively lawful” restrictions, including barring gun possession by felons and mentally ill persons; barring gun possession in places like schools and government buildings; and establishing conditions for commercial sale of guns. The District’s restrictions, in line with Heller, should not be second-guessed by Congress.

Becker, who is also active with Gays Against Guns, added the following personal thoughts:

I was a middle schooler in 1999 when the Columbine massacre happened. It shook all of us to our core — I remember participating in school assemblies to express solidarity for the victims and their families, and taking part in “code blue” lockdown drills to practice what to do in the event of an active-shooter incident. Back then, we trusted that adults would do the right thing and take legislative action to protect us. But in the nearly two decades since, almost nothing has changed. I’m beyond inspired to see this next generation of students finding their voice, walking out of school, and taking to the streets in peaceful protests like the March for Our Lives, demanding an end to our nation’s gun violence epidemic and common-sense gun control measures to keep us all safe. I’m thrilled to see them standing up and speaking out, and I’m committed to standing with them.



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