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.
The underlying cause of that tragedy was the same as in Virginia Beach a few weeks ago: A mentally unstable human being driven by perceived grudges to use deadly weapons against strangers and then commit suicide by cop. This time we’re skipping any pretense of intelligent analysis or consensus and going straight to political posturing, given there’s an election in a few weeks.
None of Governor Ralph Northam’s eight recycled proposals would make us safe. A total and enforced ban on private ownership of firearms might make a difference. That would require repeal of the Second Amendment, which isn’t going to happen, and enforcing it could produce a bloodbath. Absent full enforcement, it would do no good. Even mandatory licensing (as now exists for concealed weapons) would be ignored by criminals and obeyed only by the law-abiding.
Lacking real solutions, there are plenty of pretend fixes in the Northam news release. One bullet point starts with “Legislation to ban dangerous weapons.” Please list which weapons are considered safe, Governor. The modifier is meaningless, as by definition no weapon is safe. If your goal really is no weapons at all, Governor, put in that bill.
The counterclaims that will come next week are also nonsensical. No, giving more people the right to carry concealed weapons or allowing guns by right in all public spaces will not make us safer. That includes this new bill allowing all state and local employees a broad right to carry a concealed weapon. It likely would make us all more civil when speaking with civil servants who have upset us.
While prohibiting suppressors or large magazines won’t matter, neither would expanding their use. There is no Second Amendment right to own those. They exist to improve the process of killing people. Whether those bills pass or fail is of zero interest to me and I suspect many others. Bad guys will have them.
What Democrats really want, as illustrated by this Blue Virginia piece and others like it, is just a bunch of roll calls to use in their campaigns. Killing these bills, which have been killed before, in a small subcommittee again leaves most legislators out of the nose-count. Not long ago plenty of Democrats were equally happy to stay away from taking recorded votes.
The one idea on the Governor’s list that might get most attention is what the Governor wants to call an Extreme Risk Protective Order and the opponents call a Red Flag Law, where a citizen is disarmed – perhaps forcibly disarmed after forced entry – with due process allowed after the fact, if at all. The results on that from other states are not encouraging, and proponents have resisted any compromise version where the due process comes first.
As with so many things, the problem is we the people. If we suspect somebody is deranged and armed, are we willing to turn them in? Many are still wondering who knew what about the Virginia Beach murderer. Is it fear of being sued that prevents that, or fear of violent retribution? In some high-crime neighborhoods it appears the reluctance of potential witnesses is the main barrier to prosecution and progress. It is clear reluctant witnesses exist to the recent killing of a young child in a Richmond park.
Are we willing to discuss the role of constant violence in the media, in video games, and in music as frames of reference and models of behavior for too many young people? No, we won’t go down that road. Parents don’t want to hear they need to control their children’s exposure. Powerful and rich forces will tell us there is no evidence of harm, using the same tactics favored by those who told us cigarettes and sugary soft drinks won’t kill you.
Neither Virginia nor the nation are ready for a real conversation about changing the culture of violence and silence, equally responsible for the mass workplace shooting or the all-too-routine single victim shooting on a neighborhood street or outside a bar or road rage shootings. Our culture of violence is equally responsible for murders with knives or, as in Richmond recently, motor vehicles. Guns are just more efficient tools.
The issue is so perfectly partisan now that voters can and will assume all Democrats support regulating or banning guns and all Republicans do not. It is ancient and forgotten history that Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association was once legislative aide to a pro-gun Virginia Democrat. The partisan polarization has freed extremes at both ends.
Legislators, challengers, campaign media folks, you have all you need for your Facebook ads, direct mail and robocalls, on both sides. Save the Commonwealth the time and expense of next week’s Firearms Theater. Keep it short. Save us the marches and protest signs, and the heated speeches at the Capitol bell tower. It’s just another political rerun.There are currently no comments highlighted.