Is Virginia a Leader in Gun Control?

By Peter Galuszka

For all of the sound and fury over guns in Virginia — panicked shooters are draining firearms shops of ammunition — the Old Dominion actually has been a leader among states on the gun control issue on a couple of fronts.

For details, see my story in this week’s Style Weekly.

First, Richmond was in the forefront of a much-imitated program back in the 1990s called “Project Exile” which carried mandatory federal prison terms for any felon caught in a crime.

Back in the day, Richmond’s central area was racking up the second highest murder rate in the country. The problem started with an inner-city crack cocaine epidemic and then morphed into an OK Corral motif when a lot of kids started carrying guns and using them whenever their blood got hot during a macho argument.

Project Exile worked, former Richmond Police Chief Jerry Oliver told me, because it addressed “so much gun carrying among immature young males who were unschooled and unchurched.”

To be sure, there were criticisms that Project Exile had racial tinges because it was directed at mostly young African-Americans in Richmond’s central area. Civil rights lawyers told me that they watched a kid go to jail because he had a gun on him while he was caught with a marijuana joint in his pocket. At the same time, the leading proponents of Project Exile, such as Richmond’s then Commonwealth’s Attorney and Chief Oliver are also African-Americans.

Programs like these lose their relevancy in the case of mass shootings of the Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook type which involve legally-bought guns and shooters with distinct mental illnesses. Oliver told me that in many of those cases, the shooter often doesn’t care if he gets caught because he may well intend to kill himself in the fray.

What helps is keeping a federal registry with lists of names of people considered ill enough with mental issues to make themselves dangerous if they have guns. This goes on a National Instant Criminal Background Check System that licensed gun dealers need to check before selling a firearm.

The Wall Street Journal reports that many states don’t bother supplying the system with much data. But guess which state supplies the most? Virginia.

That’s right. The Old Dominion, led by former Gov. Time Kaine and then Atty. Gen. Robert F. McDonnell (bipartisanship anyone?) actually made sure that lots of names made the list after the Virginia Tech horrors.

Of course, the list is useless at gun shows where sellers and buyers don’t have a legal requirement to check someone’s background before selling a gun. That will be addressed by President Barack Obama’s reform proposals.

Virginia’s efforts are sensible measures to ensure safety with guns. You wouldn’t know by looking at the General Assembly where legislators are ripping apart any proposal for reform. As for shooters, they are cleaning out the ammo stores. What amazes me is they’re even making a run at .22 caliber Long Rifle rounds. They can be deadly but they are the type of bullet I used to use to hunt squirrels with using my bolt-action, single shot rifle when I was 11 years old. Go figure.

2 Responses to Is Virginia a Leader in Gun Control?

  1. sending young people to jail and basically ruin the rest of their lives and saddle taxpayers with paying for them the rest of their lives is dumb – no matter the reason used to shovel them into the criminal justice system.

    At best, we’re turning them into million dollar welfare recipients (over their lifetime) and at worst, we’ve enrolled them in the PHD program at Criminal U.

    beyond the high capacity clips/magazines which apparently any whacko who can sign his name can buy – we have the simple problem that we don’t even capture the names of all the whackos because even the whackos know how to obtain a weapon and high capacity magazines through means other than formal background checks.

    I call this basically making weapons of mass destruction available to every Tom, Dick and Harry wacko that want to heft such a weapon around.

    Imagine – the most advanced country in the world, and we equate the 2nd amendment with the “right” of homicidal maniacs to wander around and fire at will.

    our “well regulated militia” is anything but.

  2. I don’t know about sensible gun control. I have a house in Virginia and one in Maryland. The Maryland house is out in the country where people hunt and shoot as everyday activities. The gun controls in Maryland are vastly more restrictive than Virginia. However, people own handguns and you can still buy exotic weapons at the local gun shops. You just can’t buy handguns by the bag or get your guns immediately.

    Go to Somerset County, MD and tell me how Maryland’s requirement for a waiting period and challenges getting a concealed carry permit really restrict “liberty” in Somerset County. The people in Somerset County seem to be just as free as their neighbors in Accomack County, VA, just over the state line. And anybody who thinks Maryland’s gun controls limit the effectiveness of citizens to protect themselves need only start waving a weapon around in a restaurant in Somerset County to find the error of that assumption.

    Peter, I don’t know what the right answer is. However, I think Virginia’s loose controls on firearms should be a point of public discussion. Maybe we have the right approach, maybe not. However, that public discussion will not happen this year. Five Republican state senators from primarily rural areas killed the most important gun control bills in committee. They will never be debated and voted on by the full senate. They will never get a hearing in the house. We will never know where the vast majority of our elected representatives stand on the matter. Worse yet, a bill to allow localities some discretion in gun control was also killed by those same five senators in committee. If the lying scumbags in the RPV really believed in freedom, liberty and democracy they wouldn’t have killed those bills in committee.

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