Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who might start a run for Texas governor next year, has mustered support from a majority of Senate and House members to help persuade the Supreme Court to strike down the District of Columbia's gun laws.
Hutchison said Thursday she is filing a friend-of-the-court brief in a challenge to the laws. Fifty-five senators and 250 House members have signed the brief to be filed Thursday by her and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Hutchison has long opposed the district's ban on handguns and requirement that rifles and shotguns be registered, stored unloaded and either locked or disassembled. She has sponsored legislation several times to overturn the district's laws. Her 2004 bill passed the House, but not the Senate.
The district's law forced her to dismantle and return to Texas her .357 Magnum she brought with her when she moved from Austin.
"In Texas, of course, the right to keep and bear arms is well-settled. In fact, when in Texas you talk about gun control, they mean using two hands," Hutchison quipped in a speech organized by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
A federal appeals court ruled in March that the district's ban is an unconstitutional infringement on an individual's right to keep and bear arms.
The district appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, arguing the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms only in the context of an organized militia. Hutchison argues it is an individual right. The court is expected to hear arguments next month.
"All of the congressional legislative history is assuming that the Second Amendment, which is in the Bill of Rights, is an individual right and for a city or state to thwart this by taking a person's right in their home to have a loaded gun, just seemed to be a perfect opportunity for the Supreme Court to affirm this individual right that Congress has acknowledged throughout its history," Hutchison said.
Tester said the writers of the Constitution did not intend for laws to be applied to some people and not others or to be applied some times and not others.
"We cannot restrict the right to bear arms just like we can't restrict the right to practice religion or the right of a free and independent press," Tester said.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the congressional delegate for Washington, D.C., said Hutchison's brief is an attempt to get done in the courts what she couldn't get done in Congress. Norton and others have filed friend-of-the court briefs in support of the law.
Norton said the rules have been supported by all four mayors the district has had since it got home rule and has not been opposed by any City Council members.
"This is entirely a home rule, self-government matter. That is not anybody's business but our own," Norton said.
Hutchison said she's willing to accept some restrictions on the Second Amendment, in the same way the right to free speech does not allow a person to yell "Fire!" in a crowded movie house. She said she hopes the case will similarly set a standard for how far the district can go in restricting guns without infringing on a person's right to defend themselves in their home.