Gun Bans And Global Warming Take Center Stage At DC Constitutional Convention

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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District leaders hoping to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state held their anticipated constitutional convention this week and progressive policy actions on global warming and gun control were at the forefront.

The convention is a chance for the community to have input on what the final constitution will consist of. Many activists came to Monday’s meeting, the first of three, to voice which issues they feel are critical to drafting an agreeable document. D.C. is dominated by Democrats so it comes as little surprise many progressive issues took center stage. Global warming activists implored members of the New Columbia Statehood Commission to include environmental protections in the constitution, reports The Washington Post.

In the wake of the Orlando terror attack many residents came to express their support for strict gun laws or even an all-out firearm ban. Anti-gun activists do not want to incorporate the Bill of Rights into the state constitution in order to limit any local constitutional right to bear-arms. (RELATED: Mayor Plans Big Fight With Congress Over DC Statehood)

“Let that blood be on someone else’s hands,” a delegate to the convention shouted during Monday’s meeting.

Mayor Muriel Bowser chairs the statehood commission and is cautious on how political the final document should ultimately be. With Republican opposition in Congress, statehood will be an uphill climb.  Bowser does not want to alienate potential supporters with partisan policy demands.

The convention convened again Friday and Saturday to continue listening to community input and iron out the key parameters of the bill. Throughout the week, residents were also able to submit suggestions and comments through an online portal on the District’s website.

Despite being called a constitutional convention, some residents are criticizing its structure and transparency. There are no elected delegates representing community interests, and at the end of the day, it will be up to the members of the New Columbia Statehood Commission to decide what the final document includes. Residents have no real power to make their requests or demands binding. (RELATED: Congress Asserts Fiscal Dominance Over DC, Rebukes Move Toward Statehood)

“This is sending the wrong message to our children about how to run a democracy,” Laura Fuchs, a teacher at H.D. Woodson High School, told The Washington Post.

Fuchs and others think that without elected delegates, the final constitution will simply be made in the interests of the politicians involved. Residents also want there to be a process for amending the constitution in the future.

Bowser — who says the “disenfranchisement” of the District’s 672,000 citizens, many of whom are black, is the “biggest ongoing voting rights violation” — will put the issue of D.C. statehood on the ballot in November. The mayor says she wants to give the people a chance to make their voices heard and is setting up an ugly showdown with House Republicans.

Leaders in the District unveiled a comprehensive, 30-page draft constitution for statehood May 6, which officials presented to residents to review over the course of May and June. The draft constitution elevates the mayor to governor and turns the 13-member D.C. Council into a House of Delegates. The Council chair would serve as Speaker of the House under the new constitution.

The statehood movement boasts diverse supporters including presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who said in an opinion piece she will be “a vocal champion for D.C. statehood.” Some officials in D.C. simply cannot contain their excitement at the idea of D.C. becoming the nation’s newest state.

“This is a very exciting day for the District of Columbia, soon to be the 51st state,” Paul Strauss, shadow senator for the District told the DCist in May. “I am so excited, I am literally getting chills.”

The New Columbia Statehood Commission will complete a final draft of the constitution later this month. The D.C. Council will then take a vote in early July to approve the constitution and put it on November’s ballot for District residents to vote on.

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