Category Archives: Gun rights

The Mo’ Money Mountain Grows Ever Bigger

In his latest budgetary proposal, Governor Ralph Northam has proposed returning $733 million to Virginia taxpayers… Oh, wait a minute. I guess I misread the announcement. It seems he’s proposing $733 million in new spending to protect the environment and fight climate change.

That’s on top of advocating Virginia’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, expected to cost ratepayers multiple billions of dollars over the next decade; mo’ money for a preschool initiative; mo’ money for K-12 education; mo’ money to reduce maternal mortality; mo’ money for Medicaid; and mo’ money for the Virginia Retirement System. Meanwhile, his Secretary of Transportation is pushing for mo’ money for transportation funding, and he has yet to declare his position on the higher education lobby’s clamor for mo’ money.

There’s money for every Democratic Party constituency imaginable. That’s what you get with growing tax revenue and a statehouse controlled by Democrats. The one constituency getting muscled away from the feeding trough is the taxpayer. Elections have consequences.

And what are the middle- and working-class saps who pay the taxes doing about it? They’re mobilizing in defense of gun rights, getting rural and suburban localities to declare themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries.

What????? People, in the grand scheme of things, what is a bigger threat to your way of life? Restrictions on your right to purchase semi-automatic weapons… or higher income taxes, higher electric bills, higher gas taxes, runaway cost of college attendance, and out-of-control increases in the cost of health care? A few more years of going in the direction we’re going, and you won’t be able to afford to buy a semi-automatic rifle!

— JAB

Crazy about Guns

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

It’s going to be a fun G.A. session. Here are some quotes from the rally yesterday at the Capitol in opposition to Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw’s bill to outlaw assault weapons:

Retired engineer from Fairfax County:  “And without semi-automatic rifles, there is no way, not a chance in the world, that the free citizens of Virginia can actually combat tyranny in this state.”  [Does he actually believe that a tyrant could/would be able to seize power in Virginia?] Continue reading

The Rank Hypocrisy of Rural Gun Sanctuaries

by Peter Galuszka

When Donald Trump ran for president on a platform of virulent xenophobia, one of the rallying cries he favored was the idea that liberal-minded localities were forming “sanctuary cities” and would not cooperate with federal immigration officials on the prowl for undocumented aliens.

Right-wing Virginia politicians, notably Corey A. Stewart, who led anti-foreign hate raids when he was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Prince William County, locked onto the idea with a vengeance. Listed as “sanctuary” cities were places like Virginia Beach and Richmond.

The problem was that they were no such cities or counties. True, short-funded police departments tended to stick to their real work – enforcing local and state laws as they should – but there were no formal pronouncements of “sanctuary cities.”

So, it is indeed ironic that the anti-control mob is creating a series of so-called “sanctuary” cities and counties where authorities will refuse to enforce gun control laws. So far, the counties of Appomattox, Campbell, Carroll, Charlotte, Patrick and Pittsylvania have declared themselves ‘Second Amendment Sanctuaries,” reports the Washington Post. Continue reading

Go West, Young Man, and Get a Concealed Carry Permit

Percentage of the population with a concealed carry permit in 2019. Source: Virginia Public Access Project

The farther west in Virginia you go, the more likely it is that the guy standing next to you carries a concealed-carry permit. What would really be interesting is to see the correlation between the percentage of concealed permits and number of crimes committed with firearms.

— JAB

Best Gun Violence Idea Not Proposed in VA?

Grandstanding with guns on the House of Delegates floor. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown)

by Steve Haner

The most effective gun violence prevention idea presented to the Virginia State Crime Commission Monday was one seldom discussed in the state:  Add violent misdemeanors to the list of convictions that prevent gun purchases from a licensed dealer.

Four states, including Maryland, have that provision and a Boston University study found it has lowered the firearms homicide rate better than 25 percent in those states. Right now, extending the ban from felons to violent misdemeanants is not among the scores of bills pending at Virginia’s special session on gun violence.

One of the least effective proposals, but one always at the top of many lists?  Prohibiting the sale of so-called assault or assault-style rifles.  The research on that is clear, Boston University research fellow Claire Boine said in one of the most useful evidence-based presentations from the long day. You can see her slides here and the full study hereContinue reading

Gun Issues Return to Capitol Monday, Tuesday

by Steve Haner

Proposed firearms regulations will pack a General Assembly meeting room Monday and Tuesday, and for that portion of the population not already locked into an ideological position either way, it could be useful to pay attention.

The Republican majorities have taken some political bashing for failing to act on the flood of proposals, many previously seen and rejected, that showed up when Governor Ralph Northam sought to railroad them through a hasty special session after the Virginia Beach shooting.  But the ideas are going to get a better hearing at the Crime Commission next week than they would have when introduced.  Continue reading

Exercising Your Second Amendment Right

Interesting scenario:  You are doing some shopping in Walmart. Alarmed by the recent nationwide shootings, you are carrying your recently legally authorized concealed handgun. A man walks in, carrying an assault-style rifle and a handgun strapped to his side, along with several magazines of ammunition. This also is legal in Virginia. What do you do?

  1. Say hello to your fellow gun-carrying customer
  2. Ignore him
  3. Pull out your handgun and confront him
  4. Shoot him because he is obviously a threat

Here are the laws governing this situation, which you may or may not know as you are trying to decide what to do: Continue reading

Yes, Mental Illness is Key, Says U.S. Secret Service

The United States Secret Service, probably not a tool of the gun-loving American right, has just issued a report on 2018 mass shootings with a strong focus on the mental health problems displayed by the shooters. Clearly it didn’t get the same memo received by our friends at Blue Virginia, who think any such discussion unfairly stigmatizes the mentally ill and distracts from the real villains: guns themselves.

Let me get this right: Democrats don’t want to stigmatize the mentally ill, but are all too happy to blame the millions of law-abiding gun owners and subject them all to new regulations or restrictions, up to and including search, seizure and confiscation?  Continue reading

Firearms Theater: Boring, Tiresome, Repetitive

It is easy to dismiss next week’s special session of the General Assembly on proposed gun control as meaningless political theater, because that it what it will likely amount to.  It is also boring, tiresome and repetitive.

Following the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech, a group of well-intended and well-informed experts formed a non-partisan task force looking for insight, information and common ground.  There were state-level (here) and national (here) reports produced.  Continue reading

Mass Shootings a Multi-Faceted Phenomenon

Victims of the Virginia Beach shooting

Tragedy struck Virginia yesterday in the form of a mass shooting at the Virginia Beach municipal complex. The investigation into the shooter’s motive — undoubtedly tied to workplace violence — remains incomplete, but that probably won’t stop pundits and talking heads from indulging their usual tropes for and against guns.

I find both sides of the gun-rights debate to be tiresome. Gun control zealots act as if the availability of guns were the one and only issue: Limit access to guns and the country will be a safer place. Gun rights zealots act as if the ubiquity and easy availability of guns has nothing to do with the lone-shooter carnage that erupts periodically across the country.

To my mind, mass shootings are a complex social phenomenon for which there are no easy remedies. Permit me to advance a few propositions that, hopefully most reasonable people can agree upon.

Yes, the ubiquity and easily availability of guns is part of the problem. The fact that the overwhelming majority of mass killings are mass shootings is all the evidence we need to make this point. True, you can kill people by exploding bombs, running them down with trucks, and even stabbing them with knives (a growing phenomenon in countries with low rates of gun ownership). But alternative means of committing mass mayhem are either more difficult to execute, easier for law enforcement authorities to intercept, or less likely to be deadly. Continue reading

Crack, Guns and Murder Rates


The 1980s crack epidemic created a vicious spike in homicides in major cities across the United States. As the epidemic faded, so did the street killings. While the murder rate went down for all races, however, it stayed persistently high for one demographic group: young black males. Seventeen years after the arrival of crack in a given city, homicide rates among young black males remained 70% higher than they had been beforehand.

So concludes a newly published study, “Guns and Violence: The Enduring Impact of Crack Cocaine Markets on Young Black Males,” published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“The long run effects of this increase in violence are large,” write the authors William N. Evans, Timothy J. Moore, and Craig Garthwaite. We attribute nearly eight percent of the murders in 2000 to the long-run effects of the emergence of crack markets. Elevated murder rates for younger black males continue through to today and can explain fully one tenth of the gap in life expectancy between black and white males.”

For a work of economics, the driest of the social sciences, this study makes fascinating reading. While the authors themselves do not extrapolate their findings to broader public policy debates, others almost certainly will do so. The study illuminates the causes of black violence in places as disparate as Chicago (66 shot, 12 killed in a recent weekend) and Richmond (five people shot at a Shockoe Bottom restaurant over the weekend). It does not fit easily with liberals’ white oppression/black victimization narrative. Nor does it give any comfort to conservatives’ people-kill-people/guns-don’t-kill-people narrative.

Reality is complex. Ideologically driven narratives do violence to reality. Our job as informed citizens is to fathom those complexities. And this study is a good place to start. Here follow some highlights of the study.

The United States has seen a 25-year decline in its murder rate. Scholars have advanced a variety of theories to explain it — the legalization of abortion, the birth dearth and declining percentage of young males in the population, increased imprisonment rates, changes in police strategies, better emergency medicine, a decline in teen births, and the removal of lead from gasoline. The main flaw in these theories, suggest Evans et al is that they fail to explain the differing experiences of demographic sub-groups: “Young black males in the United States have failed to enjoy a long-run decline similar to other demographic groups, including older black males.”

Between 1968 and 1984 older and younger black males had remarkably similar murder rates. The rates diverged sharply after 1984. The murder rate for young black males roughly doubled by 1993, peaking at 164 murders per 100,000 population. While their murder rate fell to half the peak six years later, it declined only slightly thereafter. As a result, in 2015 the murder rate for young black males was 23 percent higher than the rate in 1984. By contrast, the murder rate of older black males fell by 54%.

The murder rate among whites likewise surged between 1984 and 1992 (though from a lower base and by a smaller percentage). Unlike the experience of young black males, the murder rate for young white males continued to decline throughout the 2000s.

Here is the authors’ explanation:

The daily experiences of young black males were fundamentally altered by the emergence of crack cocaine markets in the United States. … The diffusion of guns both as a part of, and in response to, these violent crack markets permanently changed the young black males’ rates of gun possession and their norms around carrying guns.

Large-scale cocaine traffic entered the United States in the early 1980s, driven by the Latin American drug cartels. Initially, the drug was expensive, making it unaffordable to lower-income populations. But the innovation of cooking cocaine with baking soda and water, allowing it to cool and harden so it could be broken into “rocks” that could be smoked, expanded the market. A single dosage could be sold profitably for as little as $2.50, which lower-income Americans could afford.

Unlike powder cocaine, which tended to be sold discretely in private locations between dealers and customers who had pre-existing business relationships, crack was sold frequently in small doses between dealers and customers had made no pre-existing contacts — in open-air markets. The nature of the crack market put a premium on certain geographic locations. Drug dealers began using violence to defend their turf from competitors.

As crack dealing spread from the original cocaine depots of Miami, New York and Los Angeles to smaller cities, violence spread with it. Crack arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1985 and in Hampton Roads in 1987, according to data in the article’s appendix. (Crack came to Richmond, situated on the crack highway of Interstate 95, about the same time.) Murder rates soared. Killings were so prevalent in Richmond that the city became notorious as a “murder capital” of the U.S. Everywhere it went, crack changed local attitudes toward guns. Write Evans et al:

The violence from crack markets was not limited solely to its participants. While organized crack markets were primarily run by young black males, the majority of black males avoided participation in these illicit activities. … Instead, their close proximity to friends and acquaintances involved in the drug trade exposed them to increased risk of violence, a fact that encouraged many to carry guns.

Continue reading

Dillon’s Rule, the RPV and the Marylandization of Virginia

by Don Rippert

Doppler shift from red to blue. As recently as 1977 both of Maryland’s US Senators were Republican.   From 1993 through 2003 Maryland’s eight US House seats were evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.   Today, Maryland’s 10 person Congressional delegation consists of 9 Democrats and a lone Republican.  This shift caused Maryland to be routinely rated as one of America’s most liberal states but also one of the worst states for conservatives.

Yes, Virginia there is a trend here too. Maryland last saw a Republican US Senator in 1989, Virginia made it to 2009.  In the state legislature nothing more than pure luck kept Republicans in control of the house.  Republicans still hold the state senate but all of those seats come up in 2019.  Maryland went from light blue to royal blue about 15 years ago and Virginia is tracking 20 years behind Maryland.  Simple math says that Virginia will be fully liberal / Democratic by 2023.  Arguably, the RPV’s recent bungling could accelerate this timeline.

In the RPV hope really does spring eternal.  Unfortunately, hope is not a strategy.  Hope gives Virginia’s Republicans a choice of EW Jackson (unelectable), Corey Stewart (unelectable) and Nick Freitas (a longshot, but maybe electable) in the recently held US Senate primary.  The rightwing radicals who vote in primaries insist on the futile opposition to abortion as a litmus test and voila … “unelectable” wins the Republican nomination.  When Stewart loses, those same lunatic fringe members will declare that Stewart just wasn’t conservative enough.  Fast forward to 2019, repeat the same RPV process and the Dems are in perfect position to dominate the statehouse right in time for the next round of census-driven gerrymandering.  Stick a fork in the RPV.

Judge Dillon’s revenge on Virginia’s conservatives.  Contrary to popular opinion there are some very conservative areas in Maryland.  They are too few to affect the state overall but they’re still very conservative.  Secession has been discussed frequently in Maryland’s Eastern Shore and recently in Western Maryland, the most conservative areas of the state.  Nobody thinks either plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of success but it’s “fun talk” anyway.  However, conservative Marylanders have something conservative Virginians don’t – local autonomy.  Even income taxes vary by county in Maryland.  So, a liberal county like Montgomery has a high county income tax (3.2%) and many government services while conservative Worcester County has a low income tax (1.25%) and fewer government services.  Conservative counties can stay somewhat conservative – even in the so-called Free State.  Once the libs get full control of Virginia everybody in the state will pour ever more money down the rabbit hole in Richmond.  Guns will become a dirty four letter word.  School curricula will be standardized along liberal lines and designated safe spaces will be mandatory for all government buildings (including schools).  When that happens I’ll be laughing at the addle brained Virginia conservatives who so loved our idiotic implementation of Dillon’s Rule here in the Old Dominion.  They’ll have it far worse than the conservatives in Maryland.

The Veiled Racism in the School Shooting Debate

U.S. Homicide rate… down. Graphic credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

An axiom of Bacon’s Rebellion is that while progressives (progs) and social justice warriors (SJWs) oppose racism in their rhetoric, they support policies that have the unintended result of being racist in effect. Nowhere is this clearer than in their approach to the criminal justice system, in which they decry the criminals as victims while ignoring the victims of their criminality. Today I will take my argument one step further and suggest that progs and SJWs betray a pattern of behavior that, if observed among conservatives and libertarians, they would tar as racist.

This truth was brought to my mind by the lead editorial in the Richmond Times-Dispatch today, which published graphs contrasting the decline of the U.S. homicide rate over the past three decades (despite an uptick in the past two years) with the decline in mass shootings.

School massacres and other mass shooting.

The thrust of the T-D editorial was to observe that once upon a time, when access to guns was far easier than it is today, there were far fewer school mass shootings. Clearly, something is going on that has nothing to do with guns.

I would suggest that that “something” is a cultural/psychological phenomenon connected to white male alienation and mental illness, the spread of the Columbine-massacre template among disturbed teenage whites, mass media hysteria that guarantees maximum exposure of every shooting, and the rise of social media creating a platform for the killers to create manifestos explaining and justifying their rage. But that’s a side observation.

The larger point is this: National U.S. media inundate the public with coverage of mass shootings, even though they account for an almost trivial amount of total homicides. Why is that? Could the reason be that the overwhelming majority of all homicide victims are black, brown, or lower-income whites while the overwhelming majority of school shooting victims are white — just like the Mika Brzezinkis, Joe Scarboroughs, Rachel Maddows, Chris Cuomos and New York Times editorial writers? Could the reason be that the overwhelming majority of homicide victims live in neighborhoods where elite opinion makers never set foot, therefore elite opinion makers do not share the same sense of alarm as other Americans about criminal violence, while school shootings occur in places where the victims “look like them”?

Consider this graph from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Blacks are about 30% more likely to be victims of violent crimes than whites. Of course, a large percentage of violent crimes within any racial/ethnic category are committed by domestic partners or other acquaintances. Exclude those categories, and the rate of violent-crime victimization of upper-income, college-educated whites is very low. Upper middle-class progs and SJWs don’t worry much about assaults by domestic partners, gambling buddies, drug suppliers, or random street muggings. To them, the perceived threat of school shootings looms larger. As far as black victims of violent crime… meh. Inner city crime can be written off as an outcomes of institutional racism anyway — not their fault.

There is a fine balancing act here. The U.S. criminal justice system arguably does incarcerate too many people, and it arguably does need an overhaul. Virginia does an exemplary job of recycling jail and prison inmates back into the community — we have one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country — but we could always do more. And we are. As an example: Yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam signed bipartisan legislation raising the threshold for a felony larceny from $200 to $500 — an action that hopefully will have the effect of reducing jail populations without increasing the incidence of petty crime.

But we need to be careful. According to the “broken windows” theory of criminality, a tolerance of misdemeanors leads to more minor crimes. A tolerance of minor crimes leads to more major crimes. The victims of those crimes come disproportionately from minority and lower-income neighborhoods. While these victims receive attention from local news media, they warrant almost zero from the national media that exert such a profound influence on the public policy agenda. If all crime victims were given the same platforms to express their fear and frustration as, say, the Parkland, Fla., school shooting survivors, the public policy debate in the United States would look very different indeed.

Lies, Damn Lies, and CNN Statistics

So, I listened this weekend to some of the speeches in the “March for Our Lives” protest against guns, and heard a lot of criticism of the National Rifle Association for buying votes through its enormous campaign contributions. Then I saw this article published on the CNN website that purports to explain why the NRA holds so much sway in Congress. States CNN:

While large industries such as defense, health care and finance give more to federal candidates, so-called “single-issue” groups have always been a bit different. For them, it’s not necessarily as much about outspending and outflanking other industry powers as it is how they compare with the other side — those advocating the opposite position.

By that measure, the NRA and its allies aren’t just winning, they’ve been dominating for years.

In the 2018 election cycle so far, gun rights groups, including the NRA, have outspent the competition more than 40 to 1.

Gun rights groups have made nearly $600,000 in direct contributions and independent expenditures on behalf of congressional candidates, the data shows. Gun control groups? Barely $14,000.

Graphic credit: CNN

I don’t have a (hunting) dog in this fight. I don’t own a handgun; indeed, I have never shot a gun but once in my life. I don’t have a problem with enacting measures to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, crazy people and wife beaters. On the other hand, if I felt the need to defend myself, I’d want to make sure that my right to purchase a Dirty Harry-worthy .44 Magnum wasn’t infringed in any way. Call me a middle-of-the-roader on this issue.

So, when I heard the refrain that the “gun lobby” spreads around far more money than gun control advocates do, I had no reason not to believe it. What else would explain their political power?

Then I came across this article published by Radio IQ. Virginia public radio is hardly part of the NRA fan club. But, drawing upon data from the Virginia Public Access Project, Radio IQ drew a radically different conclusion regarding money in Virginia politics.

During last year’s state election, gun rights groups and firearms dealers gave more than $160,000 in campaign contributions. That’s according to an analysis from the Virginia Public Access Project. It’s a good chunk of change, and it was directed largely at members of the General Assembly who sit on committees that routinely stop gun control legislation. But groups that advocate for gun control donated more than $2.4 million, mostly to statewide candidates.

“One of the myths of politics is the idea that NRA money is decisive,” according to Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington. He says the real power of the NRA is not the campaign contributions. It’s the activists who show up at rallies and contact lawmakers and are, essentially, single-issue voters.

(Last year wasn’t a fluke, by the way. VPAP records show that gun control advocates have outspent gun rights advocates in Virginia political races since 1996-97 by $8.1 million to $1.3 million.)

Quoting national statistics, CNN says the NRA outspends opponents 40 to 1. Quoting state statistics, Radio IQ says opponents outspend the NRA by 15 to 1. That’s quite a discrepancy.

I consulted the OpenSecrets.org database to see if I could explain the diametrically opposed results. For the 2017-2018 election cycle, OpenSecrets says that gun rights groups contributed $808,000 to federal candidates, parties, and outside groups, while gun control groups contributed a mere $152,000. That’s a spending gap, but closer to 5 to 1 than 40 to 1.

Delving a bit deeper, we see that the Giffords PAC, named after shooting victim Congressman Gabbie Giffords, was the only major contributor listed for the gun control groups. It turns out that the big gun-control groups — Everytown for Gun Safety, the Giffords PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence — contributed heavily to Virginia state races — primarily  Governor Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax. I would conjecture that the same groups have spent heavily in other state groups as part of a strategy of influencing state elections rather than federal elections.

In other words, CNN told only part of the story. Its article focused on federal elections exclusively, ignoring the vast sums poured into Virginia and possibly other state elections. I don’t know if CNN was consciously manipulating the truth, or if it was just incredibly sloppy. But I do know this: Far from being “the most trusted name in news,” CNN is rapidly establishing itself as the least trusted name in news.

Seriously? We Can’t Even Ban Bump Stocks?

Cortney Carroll, survivor of the Las Vegas mass shooting, talks to local media at the General Assembly. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

In a 4-to-3, party-line vote, the House Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee killed a bill yesterday that would ban bump stocks — a mechanism, made notorious by October 1 mass shooting at a Las Vegas country music concert, which allows semiautomatic weapons to fire more like automatic weapons. 

I’m skeptical of many gun control measures and much of the rhetoric emanating from anti-gun crusaders, but after the Las Vegas massacre, which left 58 people dead and 851 injured, I figured it would be no-brainer to ban bump stocks. I’m not a gun owner — indeed, the only gun I’ve ever shot was a 22-caliber rifle when I was 12 years old — so I’ll confess to a vast depth of ignorance on the subject. But I can see no possible justification for bump stocks, which are clearly meant to circumvent the ban on automatic weapons.

Las Vegas provided a vivid example of how bump stocks can be used to magnify the horror of a mass shooting. A bump stock ban would not have stopped the shooting, but it would’ve given people “time to run and take cover,” argued 40-year-old Cortney Carroll of Henrico County, a survivor of the shooting who testified before the subcommittee, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

There’s something to be said for making weapons less deadly, for having fewer people killed in mass shootings.

At the hearing, Del. Thomas C. Wright Jr., R-Lunenburg, said evil can move people to use anything to cause mayhem, “whether they use trucks, cars, box cutters, knives or whatever. … Regardless of what laws we pass, until the evil in men’s hearts change, it’s not going to solve the problem.”

There is some truth in what he says. But, by that logic, why not allow people to own self-propelled grenades, mortars, bazookas, and anti-tank rockets? Why deprive Americans of the entertainment value in going out to an empty field and blowing stuff up? After all, we can’t change the evil in men’s hearts. But, in fact, we don’t allow civilians to play with such toys because the potential for abuse is too horrifying.

It strikes me that the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, has raised the bar for all potential maniacs, terrorists, and death-by-coppers. If your goal is to cause as much mayhem as possible, how stupid do you have to be to not add a bump stock to your semi-automatic?

Wright is right to say that determined people will always find a way to commit mass murder. As long as no fundamental freedom is being infringed — and the right to bear bump stocks is not a fundamental freedom — let’s not make it easy for them.