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NRA Sees Little Chance of D.C. Gun Control Bill Taking Effect

December 18, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A National Rifle Association spokesman said Tuesday that the organization will try to have the District of Columbia’s new gun control law invalidated by Congress or in the courts.

The law, signed Monday by Mayor Marion Barry Jr., opens manufacturers and dealers to suits for damages caused by semiautomatic weapons.

″It’s a very poor piece of legislation,″ said Richard Gardner of the NRA. ″It essentially penalizes law-abiding manufacturers for the actions of criminals.″

The law, approved last week by the city council, is the farthest-reaching gun control measure in the country. As with all district laws, Congress has a 30-day period to invalidate the regulation.

Based on product-liability law, the measure allows individuals to seek monetary damages for death or injury to themselves or family members caused by a product. In such cases, juries or judges decide the amount of damages after a trial on an individual’s lawsuit.

Barry, in a television interview Tuesday, said he had signed the bill because ″we have to take all measures to try to get the guns off the streets of America.

″The manufacturer has to begin to take some of the weight. We don’t need those guns on the streets.″

He said guns are used in 85 percent of the homicides in the city, which has the highest murder rate in the country.

Gardner said the NRA will ″look into invalidating it in Congress and the courts.″

But, he said the effort would not be a major one by the NRA.

″It’s such a foolish piece of legislation. ... There are so many reasons it can be struck down,″ he said. ″It’s more a thorn in our side than anything else. We won’t put a lot of effort into it.″

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. and a member of the House District of Columbia Committee, has said he will fight to have the measure taken off the books. Rohrabacher is out of the country, but his chief advisor, Richard Dykema, said Tuesday that a motion of disapproval will be introduced.

Dykema said the district hasn’t lobbied heavily for the measure in the past because there has been other important local legislation pending in Congress.

″It still does,″ Dykema added.

One of those measures would increase the federal government’s payment in lieu of taxes to the district. That payment of $430.5 million has not increased since 1985.

The Associated Press erroneously reported Monday that final council action on the bill would not come until Tuesday, the final day of the city’s legislative session.

As with all new district laws, Congress has 30 days to invalidate the measure. That review period begins Jan. 23, when Congress resumes legislative business.

Under most circumstances, city laws stand with no objection from Congress, but controversial measures often inspire debate and sometimes are invalidated.

A gun-control law on the district’s books since 1976 forbids gun sales and prohibits private citizens from owning weapons unless they were purchased and registered before the law took effect.

Nonetheless, the city has the nation’s highest per-capita homicide rate. In 1988, 369 people were murdered; in 1989, 434. With just 13 days left in 1990, 465 people have been killed.

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