The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on Wednesday reversed its controversial statement of support for gun control following an outcry from many of its municipal members.
Lawmakers voted 24-4 to drop the group's official support for universal background checks, a ban on military-style assault weapons and limits on high-capacity ammo magazines.
The organization has been backtracking since it voted in March for a resolution calling for greater gun control. Loudoun, Prince William and Frederick counties and Manassas City later objected to the vote, saying COG shouldn't deal with federal issues. They threatened to cut off about $500,000 in funding for COG unless the regional board reversed course.
Fairfax County Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, who called for Wednesday's reconsideration, said the reversal is "a real example of how leaders on all sides of a controversial issue can work together to resolve all of our issues."
But some COG officials, including Prince George's County Councilwoman Karen Toles, questioned the reversal of the March vote, saying COG backing down because of threats by members could set a precedent.
"There are very many issues in this region that I don't support," Toles said. "But we don't say we're not going to be a part of an organization. ... As leaders, we need to step up. We shouldn't have to choose our politics over the safety of our residents."
Greenbelt Mayor Judith Davis also worried about the example the organization was setting by taking back its previous vote. She said COG officials should be able to disagree civilly, and not threaten to quit "if we don't get our way."
Wednesday's vote sends the issue of gun control back to committee for further evaluation and asks lawmakers to "report back to the board on their findings and any suggested actions within six months."
COG leaders do intend to tackle issues related to gun violence, including mental health and school safety, once the gun control measure is returned to them. The topics are far more controversial than what the government organization typically handles, however, and will likely be met with stiff resistance from certain members.
"Public safety is unquestionably an issue we should address," said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, defending COG's support for gun control. "To say [guns] are off the table entirely is unacceptable to me."