NEW YORK –– Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statements supporting H.R. 51, legislation to make Washington, D.C. the 51st state. This would be the first House vote on D.C. statehood since 1993.
“D.C. residents are on the frontlines of America’s gun violence crisis, so they deserve an equal voice in our national conversation about gun safety,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Congress should do right by the District and pass H.R. 51.”
“The gun violence in our nation’s capital isn’t an accident, but a consequence of decades of underinvestment and inadequate representation in Congress to address gun safety legislation at the federal level,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “It’s past time we support the District’s autonomy to implement proven solutions to save lives in D.C. — and that starts with statehood.”
“Statehood could make a world of difference in preventing senseless gun violence in the District,” said Pranav Nanda, a volunteer with the D.C. chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We’re proud to follow the lead of local partners who have been calling for these changes for years. If lawmakers want to address the scourge of gun violence that hits our Black community members hardest, D.C. statehood is a vital step in that effort.”
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.
The vote on the bill in the House 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. H.R. 51 has 223 co-sponsors — more than half of the House — and is expected to pass the House on Friday.
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 than white people. Overall, Black Americans are 10 times as likely than 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 3 times more likely to be killed by police than white people.