In his final speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed, “We have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it.
“Survival demands that we grapple with them.”
Fifty years later, from Newtown to Las Vegas to Parkland to neighborhoods across the country, gun violence is threatening the survival of too many Americans.
In Washington, D.C., where Congress still has the ability to meddle with our laws and policies, Sen. Marco Rubio has introduced legislation that would legalize assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and allow guns in our schools.
It is heartening that Rubio has recently expressed support for raising the minimum age for purchasing a gun and for comprehensive background checks, but for the residents of the nation’s capital, it is also confounding, because it is the height of hypocrisy to unveil and promote these new stances while simultaneously working to gut D.C.’s local gun laws.
We respectfully ask the senator to leave us alone.
Our country is facing a gun violence epidemic. Senseless gun violence has taken the lives of hundreds of innocent Americans. As elected officials, constituents look to us to solve the nation’s most pressing issues. Since the Parkland shooting, we have seen the country, led by the courageous students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, call for Congress to finally pass common-sense gun reforms.
I am proud of the gun legislation that Washington, D.C., has adopted over the years. Just last week, I introduced legislation to ban the sale and possession of bump stocks. However, as strong as D.C.’s gun laws may be, we are always susceptible to congressional interference. For more than a decade, members of Congress have repeatedly ignored the will of Washingtonians by introducing bills to gut our gun laws. Not only are these bills an affront to the democratic process, they will do nothing to make our nation’s capital safer.
Washington, D.C. is home to 700,000 residents, and we continue to grow each day. Despite our size, and despite the fact that residents live in the shadow of the Capitol, we have no voting representation in Congress. Unfortunately, Washingtonians are all too familiar with the drawbacks of this second-class status. For years, we have had to deal with congressional interference in our local laws. At this point, we have come to expect it.
What we do not expect, however, is the type of hypocrisy in Rubio’s bill. It is unconscionable for him to tell his Florida constituents and colleagues that he is listening to their concerns and trying to do better, while simultaneously pushing legislation that would exacerbate the problem for Washingtonians. We do not need more guns on our streets; we need common-sense gun reform. It is time for Rubio to show real leadership and withdraw his D.C. gun bills.
In less than two weeks, I will proudly stand with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students at the March for Our Lives. Our warrior on the Hill, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, has already called on Sen. Rubio to withdraw his legislation. I ask him to do so before March 24.
If he does not, then shame on him for his hypocrisy — and for not having the courage to take a stronger stand even after two of our country’s deadliest mass shootings happened in his home state. Our country deserves more than the inaction that has become the norm, and Americans expect their elected leaders to have courage.
Muriel Bowser is the mayor of Washington, D.C.