WASHINGTON –– 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 today.
“There’s just no question: Gun violence is an epidemic in D.C., and that makes statehood a gun safety issue,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “It’s plainly wrong that D.C. voters are ignored in the national legislative conversation, especially when it comes to gun violence prevention. The Senate should follow the House’s lead and pass this critical legislation.”
“Washington, D.C. has the highest rate of gun homicide in this country, but no vote in Congress to help pass life saving gun safety legislation,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “The people of our nation’s capital have been disenfranchised for far too long. It’s past time for Washington, D.C. to become a state and I applaud the House for yet again leading the way on this issue.”
“For years now, the voices of D.C. residents have been ignored in the national conversation about gun violence in our country, even as we experience the highest rate of gun homicide in the country,” said Lisa Gordon, a volunteer with the D.C. chapter of Moms Demand Action. “As a fifth generation D.C. resident, I’m urging the Senate to follow the lead of the House, and quickly pass this historic legislation.”
“Statehood for D.C. is long overdue,” said Shayna Druckman, a volunteer with the George Washington University Students Demand Action. “A majority of D.C. residents are people of color, and our inability to be fairly represented in Congress is silencing. D.C. statehood is an important step toward helping address gun violence impacting our community.”
D.C. currently has the highest rate of gun homicide in the country. 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 the same week that former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the murder of George Floyd. Last year, many historic protests led by civil rights and racial justice organizations, organizers and advocates across the nation following the killing of George Floyd were 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 D.C., Black Washingtonians are 22 times more likely than white people to die by guns. Overall, Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicide and Black children and teens are 14 times more 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 more than two times more likely to be killed by police than white people.