District Digest: Tough on guns, tougher on protestors in trees
“Listening to the vice president today talk about background checks, talk about the ban on assault weapons, and these clips that will hold 20 and 30 rounds, are all those things we have already banned,” Gray said. “We need to make it harder for people to own guns.”
Gray intends to become more involved with the raging debate on gun control, which is taking place nationwide. Gray is in contact with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Gray will also walk with family members of Newtown shooting victims in a march for gun control.
Gray believes the measures have good justification, given the current state of the District. “We don’t have a fool-proof system, but it’s hard for me to envision [a mass shooting] happening in the District of Columbia, given the constraints that people have, and would have to overcome, to be able to pull that off,” he said.
The Mayor ties D.C.’s decreasing crime to strict gun laws. Despite the fact that the District was tough on guns throughout its most violent decade, the 80’s, Gray says that decreasing public access to firearms was key to the District’s improvement.
Tree-climbing inauguration protester banned from District
Barack Obama’s inaugural address on Monday drew an odd protest, when Rives Miller Grogan, a 47-year-old man from California, climbed a tree and shouted anti-abortion slogans.
Capitol police spent 5 hours trying to remove Grogan, who climbed higher up the tree, when police produced a ladder to remove him. Eventually, a fire truck was dispatched but couldn’t make it through the security barricades to reach the tree. Police ultimately decided to wait until the end of the ceremonies to deal with Grogan, who then came down on his own.
Grogan was charged with violating a previous order to avoid the Capitol, as well as violating a few laws concerning the protection of peace and property on the Capitol grounds. On Monday, a judge ordered him to stay out of the District entirely, until his hearing in late February.
This is far from Grogan’s first protest. Since 2009, he has been arrested 5 times. Most recently, he shouted “Obama doesn’t see the light,” from the Senate gallery, during proceedings. He’s also protested in front of the Capitol, telling visitors to “stop killing babies.”
District police due for new collective bargaining agreement
It has been six long years since D.C.’s agreement with the police expired. In 2007, under Mayor Adrian Fenty, the city took a hard line against the police union and did not come up with a new agreement. Fenty made it his mission to be tough on public unions. Finally, a new deal could be agreed upon soon.
The head of the police union, Kristopher Baumann, filed an unfair practice charge against the city in 2008, claiming that negotiators were union busting. His complaint received sympathy from the hearing examiner but was ultimately dismissed, and the city negotiators were deemed to be acting legally.
Since Mayor Vince Gray took office in 2011, progress has been made. But only now, with new D.C. Judiciary Committee Chairman Tommy Wells coming into office, is a deal imminent.
Wells considers a fair agreement with the police to be the most important thing the city could do to ensure protection of the people.
Details on the deal have yet to emerge, but Harry Jaffe, a columnist for The Examiner, predicts it will include a 5 percent raise for police officers to compensate for the 6 years without pay increases.
According to Jaffe, the District’s 2012 budget had a $400 million surplus, which will be helpful in paying the cops’ new salaries. It will also help pay for the new police Gray plans to hire.
Photo: John Delgado-McCollum