The Ethical Spectacle, April 1995,

A Modest Proposal: End Gun Control in Washington, D.C.

Marion Barry, the District of Columbia mayor recently re-elected after doing time for drug use, stood next to Newt Gingrich for a photo op this week. The two men had been discussing how Congress can help bail out the dangerously teetering District before things really fall apart.

To many of us, what happened to D.C. seems like an exercise in greed and corruption, but to the Contract Republicans it probably seems like an exercise in liberal Democratism. Among the ideas Mr. Barry and Mr. Gingrich discussed to help cure the mess was a flat tax on income, a pet conservative project.

As an interesting side note, one of the first things the Contract Republicans did after assuming office in January was to revoke the voting rights of the District's representative in Congress. On the face of things, it seems as if we, the people of the United States, acting through our elected representatives, are:

(Is there a theme emerging? Another Contract Republican project is to use the rest of us as unwitting drug test subjects .) Anyway, this is very thought provoking. Since we have already apparently decided to use the population of the District as lab rats, why not make gun rights one of our first areas of experimentation? Since such NRA spokespeople as Wayne Lapierre and Tom Clancy believe that strict gun laws in the District, New York City, Los Angeles, etc. are counterproductive and contribute to urban violence (since only the criminals are armed), lets begin our noble experiment by repealing all local gun laws in the District. (We can leave in place the extremely mild-mannered federal Form 4473 and related procedures--hell, let's go all the way and get rid of these too.) The Contract Republicans have sworn that after the initial 100 days of passing Contract-related legislation, they will repeal last year's ban on certain semi-automatic weapons. Let's repeal that ban now, in the District only, as part of our experiment.

If we can overcome any innate objection some of us may have to experimentation on human subjects, the results should be very enlightening. There is no major metropolis in the country with large concentrations of disenfranchised, angry people (note how carefully I am avoiding any reference to race or use of the word "ghetto") which lacks strict gun control measures. At the end of a year or so, let's see if the horrifying rate of gun crime in the District has decreased--or if we have succeeded in making the place even more of a shooting gallery.

Here's one more important detail: to establish that the whole thing is a fair experiment, that we wouldn't ask anyone to submit to something that we wouldn't ourselves, let's add one rider. Every member of Congress will be required to reside in the District. And not in some fenced off, guarded, wealthy enclave either. In the neighborhoods.

What do you think, Mr. Gingrich? :{)