By James C. Sherlock
I was a career military man.
I am a conservative and a gun owner. As a younger man, I won competitive awards for marksmanship with both rifle and pistol.
I own a semi-automatic Glock for home protection. I train regularly and at almost 77 can still hit what I aim at.
With that introduction, I have a couple of suggestions for gun legislation in Virginia that I hope will draw condemnation from both the left and the right so that I know I have it roughly right.
I have four criteria for firearms legislation:
- changes that can matter to the safety of children and law enforcement officers;
- changes that can deter criminals from use of a firearm in the commission of a crime;
- changes that do not disadvantage the average citizen’s possession and use of firearms; and
- changes that can pass Second Amendment review in federal court.
Those are, as a group, difficult needles to thread simultaneously. They should be.
This article involves semi-automatic long guns – rifles and shotguns.
Semiautomatic long guns. I opposed the “assault weapons” ban because it was drawn up by people who knew nothing of guns. They outlawed the cosmetics of the guns they thought were the problem when what they were trying to get at was their semiautomatic features.
- I suggest outlawing in Virginia the sale or trade of any semiautomatic long gun. Possession and use for non-criminal purposes would be legal. Passing those weapons down to immediate family would also be legal. No confiscation.
- I further recommend Virginia make the use of a firearm in a crime a separate Class 2 felony punishable by up to life imprisonment. It is currently a separate crime punishable by a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Anticipating the pushback from some fellow gun owners, I’ll try to answer the objections I anticipate:
- Unconstitutional. “Assault rifles” were banned for ten years in America. That law was never found unconstitutional and enforcement enjoined by a federal court.
- Elephant’s nose under the tent. This law will lead to more restrictive laws. Answer. More restrictive laws are unlikely to pass constitutional muster. Many favor a ban on extended magazines, defined as magazines larger that the manufacturer normally sells included with the weapon. But a law to that effect in California was found unconstitutional.
- I need a semiautomatic rifle to hunt. Really Alice? If you are hunting with a long gun and profess need for a semiautomatic weapon, you are admitting to doubting your ability to hit what you aim at. Consider what you might hit instead. Go to the range and get good enough before taking that weapon into the wild. If you are planning to bring down a herd of something without having to chamber a new round, reconsider your hunting priorities. If you think you will miss with your long gun and be charged by an enraged elephant, carry a semiautomatic pistol. The most powerful of them will bring down said elephant.
- Extended magazines. A ban proved unconstitutional. See #2 above. But for individual gun owners, consider that extended magazines cheaply made are more likely to result in a jam than the ones sold with the weapon. Clearing a jam will take you a hell of a lot longer than inserting a fresh magazine.
- People need semiautomatic long guns to defend their businesses. That can be a valid concern, especially in certain businesses. Write the exception into the law.
- I want to be a member of a well-regulated militia. Join the National Guard. They have much better weapons than you can buy.
- I want to defend myself against the government. First, get trained in what it is legal for you to buy. Second, if semi-automatic pistols and manually chambered long guns won’t do it, then you are probably out of your league. See #6.
What will it accomplish? Over time, one will reduce the presence of semi-automatic long guns in Virginia. The other will certainly discourage their use in crimes. Law enforcement will be a less dangerous occupation. Children will be somewhat less threatened in schools.
Too much for many. Not nearly enough for others. My recommendations appear to pass constitutional tests. They do not threaten current owners of semiautomatic long guns or their progeny except ones incompetent in the use of those guns.
Those should spend more time on the range.
Just a thought.
Updated May 30 8:17 AM