By Peter Galuszka

 Late morning near Ashland, the shopping crowd of mostly middle-aged white  men is busy poring over the wares at Green Top  Sporting Goods. Although it is  only late July, hunting season looms and buyers are checking guns and rifles of  all types and sizes. Also on display are scores of handguns, mostly automatics, in glass cases. In the corner behind the counter are assault-style, semi-automatic rifles in evil-looking metal and plastic.

In one aisle, a boy of about 13 picks up a bolt-action hunting rifle with a scope. “Look dad, this one can go to 1,000 yards,” he says.

Green Top has been a local landmark since 1947 in its familiar green-roofed building on U.S. 1 just north of Richmond. The building will shut down within about a year and Green Top, which also offers lots of fishing gear, will move about a mile away to a big box store already closed by Gander Mountain Co. Both are not far from yet another big gun dealer, Bass Pro Shops.

The two chain stores are noteworthy these days. James Holmes, who allegedly shot and killed 12 and wounded 59 in a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, bought his weapons at local outlets of Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shops.

At Gander Mountain, Holmes picked up a Smith and Wesson .233 semi-automatic rifle and a .40 caliber Glock pistol. At Bass Pro Shops, he got a Remington 870 shotgun. Somehow, he allegedly snuck all three firearms,  along with thousands of rounds of bullets he bought on the Internet, into a  midnight showing of “Dark Knight Rises” while wearing bizarre, combat-looking regalia.

In Virginia, there’s nothing essentially wrong with firearms since the state has many square miles of excellent hunting land. Yet the gun mentality is very strong. The Colorado killings are strangely drawing little comment. Even more strange is that the theater killings still don’t match the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings that ended up with the shooter and 32 others dead. Still, Colorado doesn’t come up much.

The Virginia Tech terror lurked in the background on Feb. 28 when Gov. Robert F. McDonnell signed into law a repeal of 1993 statute that limited the purchase of more than one handgun every 30 days. The law had been a signature bill by former Gov. Doug Wilder who was incensed that Virginia had been funneling illegal firearms into large northern cities.

Conservative forces and Second Amendment activists had lobbied for years to get rid of the ban. Families of Virginia Tech victims begged McDonnell not to go along with the General Assembly although he had backed ending the repeal. Before he signed the  repeal into law, his staff dutifully alerted reporters. But the usually talkative McDonnell made no statement. As is the case now, the silence was maintained.

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  1. larryg Avatar

    the interesting thing is that we already limit what you can buy and who can buy.

    You cannot buy a 40mm grenade launcher or a bazooka, C4 or an M60 machine gun or drone with hellfire missle armament – and for good reason.

    but we play this pretend game that a semi-automatic assault weapon is not the same as the banned weapons because if we treated it the same as the other weapons that are prohibited it would somehow cross the threshold of our 2nd amendment rights.

    We SAY that felons, the mentally ill or those on the no fly list , etc are prohibited from buying weapons but of course we have so many loop-holes that the actual practical effect of the law is Swiss cheese.

    I do not think that prohibiting any/all weapons will keep whackos from finding ways to kill others even commit mass murders but the “pretend” game we are playing with assault type weaponry and the ability of mentally ill to buy it and to buy thousands of rounds of ammunition with 100-round magazines because to do so would “violate” our 2nd amendment rights is ludicrous … let’s just let anyone buy any kind of weaponry that they can and be done with the pretend games.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    Automatic handguns? I am guessing that the handguns are semi-automatic. One shot for each pull of the trigger. Just like a double action revolver.

    As for assault weapons – they are rifles. Usually semi-automatic. They look scary but are basically rifles. Frankly, I’d be more frightened of a civilian Mossberg 590 A1 with an 8+1 capacity.

    I personally believe that clip size is the most under-regulated aspect of firearms. As I recall, there is no limit in Virginia to the clip size you can buy. There are limits to what you can carry without a concealed handgun permit and there are limits to what can be loaded when you are hunting – especially migratory birds. But mega-clip guns can be sold.

    Is there really a need for a clip with 30 bullets? Or shotguns with a drum magazine?

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    The pistols are typically called automatics because they have a slide action as opposed to a revolving cylinder. They fire semi-automatically as you say. The problem with automatics (semis) like Glocks is that they can be used with 30 plus round clips.

  4. larryg Avatar

    the sane criteria should not specify the type of gun or the clip size but rather how much firepower it can deliver in so many seconds.

    If you try to name guns or clips in design or functionality, clever innovators will find a way to meet the standard but still deliver raw firepower and those who are interested in firepower will know what they want to buy.

    I’d also point out that both handguns and assault rifles are sold that can be converted to automatic. 60 minutes covered that a couple of years back.

    the other thing to keep in mind is the internet. Unless we are going to start searching every package that comes into this country from abroad – there’s a question as to what, if anything can really be done – although I’d point out in the same sentence that illegal drugs, and all sorts of other illegal contraband can and does take the same path.

    Finally – all these other industrialized countries have the same challenges as we do …but somehow manage to keep the number of mass murders down to a lower incidence – though not none.

  5. DJRippert Avatar


    I’ve seen the term automatic used with handguns a lot. Unfortunately, it leaves an incorrect belief in some people who hear the term and imagine machine pistols.

    Dual action revolvers fire as fast as you can pull the trigger. However, revolvers rarely have more than six bullets in the wheel as I recall.

    The semi-automatics with the big clips are the problem.

  6. larryg Avatar

    I think anything with a big clip is a problem. We don’t allow people to buy machine guns. Allowing them to buy big clips is tantamount to automatic weaponry.

    In a theater or other venue, people might be able to overcome someone with a 6-shot gun but when they have a 100-clip magazine… it’s a lot tougher proposition.

    or we could just arm everyone with 100-clip magazines… and let them in theaters, schools, churches, sports venues, etc… just in case some fool shows up intending on killing people.

    I bet once or twice when such demented individuals are drilled full of holes in a sports stadium or church… let’s say 50 distinct holes in his body from 50 different weapons.. the next weirdo will think twice before doing the same thing.

    eh? Keep listening to the NRA..they’ll get us straight on this…

  7. DJRippert Avatar

    LarryG –

    This is why the matter of gun regulation gets tricky. It’s not just the clip size that matters. It’s a combination of leathality, concealability, fire rate and clip (or ammunition box) size.

    A bolt action hunting rifle might have a decent sized ammunition clip and uses ammunition that is very lethal. However, it is very hard to conceal and has a low firing rate due to the bolt action.

    Should it be banned because it has a detachable ammunition box? Almost certainly not.

  8. larryg Avatar

    I would favor a “lethality index” that is not oriented to guns but rather any weapon – that has the capability to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time.

    you can apply that standard to any weapon not just guns.

    you could have a standard that is similar in consistency to the TSA rule for airplanes (not as restrictive but similar in concept – i.e. any/all weapons are included in the criteria).

    and again I ask… if you cannot buy a bazooka or a M60 Machine gun then why doesn’t that also violate your 2nd amendment rights?

    This is why I say we are playing silly games. We’re focused on arbitrary and meaningless standards for lethality and 2nd amendment rights.

  9. larryg Avatar

    the reason the Dems don’t touch this is pretty simple. This, along with taxes, including gas taxes and a few other things – if the Dems support – the GOP just demagogues the hell out of the issue and blows the Dem right out of the water.

    So the Dems now treat this issue as a defacto right-wing 3rd rail.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      The Dems in Virginia can, and do, approach the gas tax issue. Democrats have proposed bills to index the gas tax to inflation. These bills have been defeated.

      In my opinion, the Dems have the right idea but the wrong approach. They should focus on fairness and make their appeal in Tidewater and NoVa. If all taxes in Virginia had been frozen since 1986 then things would be fair. However, that’s clearly not the case. Taxes have risen and risen. However, the tax primarily needed to solve NoVa’s and Tidewater’s top problem has been frozen since 1986. The real question, in NoVa, is why the Dems haven’t pressed the Republicans for their unwillingness to demand fairness for the region.

      Republicans should be extinct in Northern Virginia and on the endangered species list in Tidewater.

  10. larryg Avatar

    every election, the GOP hammers any Dem who supported increases in gas taxes and the worst part is that the gas tax is dead as a door nail as a revenue source – one penny will generate 50 million. 10 cents, 500 million. these toll projects are billion dollar projects…

    RoVa is not going to sign on to a gas tax increase that goes to NoVa and Hampton either.

    The BEST idea IMHO is a regional sales tax which will generate significant revenues, does not rely on RoVa and basically becomes up to the region whether they want tolls or taxes. pick your poison.

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