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Virginia Democrats disregarded the Commonwealth’s history in pursuit of gun control. / Second Amendment

U.S. POLITICS

Firing Blanks in Virginia.

Virginia Democrats disregarded the Commonwealth’s history in pursuit of gun control.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, over 20,000 people marched in Richmond, Virginia. There was no violence or looting. Black or white, young or old, these men and women came to petition for one cause: the preservation of their second amendment rights.

The right to bear arms is protected by the U.S. Constitution—specifically to defend the Republic against overbearing legislators with tyrannical tendencies.

The 2019 election cycle ended with Democrats holding majorities throughout the entire Virginia legislature. Predictably, they took the opportunity to force a barrage of partisan, anti-firearm bills onto the Assembly docket. The mandate these representatives feel to restrict gun ownership is evident.

This onslaught against civil liberties can happen anywhere, not just Virginia. For years, Democrats have claimed that they aren’t coming after our guns and that they only want to protect vulnerable populations from the threat of their violence. With their first complete majority in 27 years, that facade has come crashing down.

Virginia demonstrates just how crucial it is for conservatives to be concerned with state and local politics, and just how fast those liberties can be eroded if we don’t pay attention.

Virginia State Capitol.

Virginia State Capitol.

UNLAWFUL, INEFFECTIVE RESTRICTIONS

The right to bear arms is protected by the U.S. Constitution—specifically to defend the Republic against overbearing legislators with tyrannical tendencies. This freedom is not constrained by zip code or local political culture, and Virginians who wish to exercise their enshrined rights should not face unjust prohibitions because of who controls their legislature at any given time.

Despite this, there are currently four pieces of major legislation before the Assembly that attempt to curb gun access:

  1. SB 35 (HB 421) enables localities to restrict the ability of gun owners to possess their firearms on publicly-owned property. The bill’s author, Sen. Scott Surovell, said that “our legislation allows localities to protect their residents from firearm violence…”
  2. SB 69 (HB 812) restricts individuals from purchasing more than one gun per month. Arguing the legitimacy of the bill, proponents like Sen. Dick Saslaw stated that if a citizen needed more than 12 guns per year, they could “Go to Texas.”
  3. SB 70 (HB 2) mandates the “universal background checks” that Democrats have been incessantly clamoring for. It extends the requirement for background checks to private sales, including purchases and transfers at firearms shows. An integral component of Gov. Northam’s proposed gun control package, he emphasizes the need to “protect the health and safety of our citizens.”
  4. SB 240 (HB 674), a “red flag” law, allows for the temporary confiscation of firearms from persons deemed to possess a “substantial risk of injury to himself or others.” This court order can be extended for up to 180 days at the discretion of the court. Supporters of the bill applaud its capacity to provide greater protections for Virginians; according to Sen. Surovell, “If the government has reason to believe that somebody might go out and kill dozens of people, we believe the government ought to be able to go get that gun to eliminate that possibility. This is not a big step.”

These bills have received widespread support given the publicity around mass shooting events in the Commonwealth. The problem is that none of these bills would effectively deal with the issue of rogue gun violence. Instead, these bills create needless friction for lawful gun access, risk further violence by preventing law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves, and violate our Constitutionally-protected rights.

Take SB 69/HB 812: the notion of one gun purchase per person every month is both arbitrary and capricious. Why not one gun purchase per week? Per year? On what basis does the one-month requirement increase safety any more than any other restriction? It is not up to Sen. Saslaw, or any other member of the Virginia Assembly, to determine how many guns a law-abiding citizen may purchase in any given month.

Moreover, SB 69/HB 812 would not have prevented the violence committed by mass shooters in Virginia. The Virginia Tech shooter was not authorized to carry his firearms on campus when he murdered 32 people in cold blood. He purchased his firearms more than one month apart from each other, as did the Virginia Beach shooter, who waited two years between purchases before killing 12 people inside of a municipal building.

Second Amendment protesters in Virginia protesting gun control.

Second Amendment protesters in Virginia protesting gun control.

Another popular policy platform nation-wide has been a call for universal background checks. But, despite documented mental health issues in his personal history,  the Virginia Tech shooter passed his mandatory background checks. The problem with his approval was that information related to his troubling mental health history was not available for NICS to review when vetting his application—not that a possible check went unperformed. The Virginia Beach Municipal shooter did not exhibit any tendencies that would have prevented him from accessing arms, nor did he subvert background check requirements. The 2010 Appomattox shooter, who had a history of (nonviolent) mental breakdowns, was not only able to purchase firearms but renewed his concealed handgun license on two separate occasions. While he acquired some of his firearms through unregulated private transactions, the weapons used during the shooting were legally purchased and thus subject to background checks. There is no evidence that SB 70/HB 2 would have stopped any of these shooters.

Background-check legislation only creates friction to lawful gun-ownership and does little to restrain determined sociopaths.

SB 240/HB 674 (the “red flag” law) would have also been of little use—the Appomattox shooter’s most recent mental breakdown occurred in 2007, wherein any “red flag” ordinance would have expired long before the attack in question. The same limitations would have applied to the Virginia Tech shooter, who was temporarily committed following two separate alleged stalking incidents in 2005. While his mental state of being was clearly a concern to those around him, the short-term effects of this type of legislation would not have prevented his actions.

As a whole, random acts of evil cannot be deterred by temporary restrictions. Background-check legislation only creates friction to lawful gun-ownership and does little to restrain determined sociopaths. None of these bills would not have stopped any of the recent mass shooters who have preyed upon Virginians.

But these recent tragedies do serve as a reason why the ability to carry a firearm is so essential.

As Jack Wilson demonstrated during the Church of Christ tragedy, a prepared gun owner can end an active shooter situation with minimal casualties. With one shot from fifty feet away, Wilson took out the gunman assailing his church before the death toll could rise above two parishioners. The same goes for volunteer guard Jeanne Assam, who was also confronted with violence in her church. She neutralized the murderer, stopping his violence before it could claim anyone else. Deterrence is also heightened with an armed citizenry, as seen in the case of Samuel Williams, whose actions prevented an armed robbery of a Florida internet cafe. From New York to Missouri, violence has been minimized by defensive gun use. The fact of the matter is that violent attacks may be unpredictable, but their damage may be mitigated by prepared citizens—if legislators don’t stand in their way.

Gun rights protester / 2A Second Amendment

Gun rights protester.

DEMOCRATS PASS ON EFFECTIVE BILLS AND DOUBLE DOWN ON FEAR-MONGERING

To fully understand the current legislative climate in Virginia, we must assess the bills that have been obstructed by the Democratic Assembly.

The vitriol, unwarranted fear, and the recent swarm of ineffectual bills all point towards a clear conclusion: Virginian gun owners are the true targets for constraint.

Sen. Amanda Chase authored SB82, which stipulated a mandatory minimum sentence of three years for any Virginian who violated a protective order while knowingly carrying a firearm. It was voted down strictly on party lines. SB10009, another bill introduced by Sen. Chase, stipulated that any locality which established gun-free zones (as permitted by SB 35) waived its sovereign immunity, thereby allowing citizens who experienced gun violence in these areas the ability to sue said localities for damages. Likewise, the bill was passed by, indefinitely, with all 9 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing it. Democrats also uniformly voted to “lay” HB1617 “on the table” (a polite way of saying a bill will not be considered at this time). HB1617 would have formed a grant for Project Ceasefire, a group whose mission is literally to reduce gun violence by targeting illicit firearms trafficking and gang activity.

These were bills meant to provide support for vulnerable communities, strengthen the punishments for those who would violate the law by illegally possessing firearms, and hold localities liable to those citizens whose rights they would deny. Each of these protective measures failed because Virginia Democrats are not interested in protecting their citizens—they’re interested in punishing their gun-owners.

This was made clear by their reaction to the January Guns Rights Rally. Media outlet after media outlet reported on the unfounded “fear of violence” at the rally—even though the event was in no way related to the white supremacist gathering that took place in 2017. (Rally leaders made it publicly known that these scumbags were not welcome).

But this didn’t stop Governor Ralph Northam from declaring a state of emergency in anticipation of the event, banning firearms entirely due to unfounded fears of Charlottesville-style violence. Del. Chris Hurst, who was receiving advocates from March for Our Lives, allowed these anti-gun activists to spend the night in his office to avoid “fear and intimidation” from the protestors peacefully gathered outside. Del. Lee Carter went even further, stating that rally attendees were “racists” and “idiot terrorists.”

The vitriol, unwarranted fear, and the recent swarm of ineffectual bills all point towards a clear conclusion: Virginian gun owners are the true targets for constraint.

Democrats don’t trust them, Democrats don’t understand them, and until they are voted out of office, Democrats will continue to eschew harsher sentencing for lawbreakers and an armed citizenry capable of self-defense in favor of repressive regulations that criminals will simply ignore.

Written By

Christian Sowalla studies pharmacy and pharmacogenomics at Shenandoah University in Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter at @CSowalla.

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