Heritage Legal Experts Testify Before Congress on DC Statehood, Gun Rights

Amnon Free Press

Heritage Foundation legal fellows Zack Smith and Amy Swearer recently testified before Congress on the issues of District of Columbia statehood and gun rights. 

In his testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform on March 22, Smith argued that HR 51, also known as the “Washington, D.C. Admission Act” would be unconstitutional and that any attempt to make D.C. a state short of a constitutional amendment would be legally problematic.  

“There are historical and practical reasons why converting the current District into a new state is a bad idea,” testified Smith. “More importantly, there are compelling reasons why doing so in this manner—via simple legislation—is unconstitutional.” 

Smith provided several different arguments as to why D.C. should not be a state, one of which is bipartisan historical precedent advising against it. 

Smith added: 

“But even if we assume … that statehood for D.C. is necessary or desirable, there is still the question of whether this method—statehood by legislation—is constitutional. The Justice Department during the Carter administration thought not, saying, ‘If [the original reasons for the creation of the District] have lost validity, the appropriate response would be to provide statehood for the District by constitutional amendment rather than to ignore the Framers’ intentions.’” 

To read Smith’s testimony, click here. Video of his remarks is below. 

One day later, on March 23, Amy Swearer testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing titled “Constitutional and Commonsense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence.” Swearer argued against a slew of proposed gun-control measures, including bills that would force universal background checks and would eliminate a provision allowing firearms dealers to legally complete a gun transfer if the FBI takes more than three days to process a background check. 

On HR 8, the so-called “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021,” Swearer agreed with the idea that certain people should not be legally allowed to own guns, but cautioned that the bill could come with unintended consequences.  

“Unfortunately, instead of addressing this concern in a reasonable and limited way, HR 8 quickly morphs into an incredibly overbearing policy whose risks to and burdens on law-abiding gun owners far outweigh any limited potential to stop gun crime,” said Swearer. “It does not stop with regulating these higher-risk publicly advertised intrastate sales, but purports to criminalize an array of very low-risk transfers commonly made between gun owners unless those gun owners first jump through a variety of bureaucratic hoops.” 

Swearer then argued that another bill on the congressional docket, HR 1446, also known as the “Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021,” would do little to fix an already miniscule problem. 

Swearer said, “The ultimate question, then, is whether HR 1446 provides an appropriate solution to a minimal factor in gun crime. Does it address the problem of FBI background check backlogs without burdening the rights of law-abiding prospective gun owners in a comparatively severe way? It does not.” 

To read Swearer’s testimony in full, click here. Video of her remarks is below. 


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