By Peter Galuszka

The usual attitudes are moving beyond infuriating. Year after year, Virginia politicians put enormous effort into expanding the presence of guns in state society, from allowing more than one purchase of a handgun each month to taking away the rights of localities to fingerprint people applying for concealed weapons permits.

Now in the aftermath of the shooting of 20 small schoolchildren in classrooms in Connecticut, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell wants to talk about arming teachers rather than addressing the real issue of banning assault rifles and high-bullet magazines.

“If people were armed, not just a police officer but other school officials who were trained and chose to have a weapon,” he told Washington radio station WTOP, “certainly there would have been an opportunity to stop aggressors coming into the schools.” Fellow Republican Bob Marshall of Prince William County, always good for hard-right zaniness, wants teachers to take special arms classes from State Police.

These ideas capture the essence of what is so terribly wrong with Virginia and the rest of the country. In the McDonnell-Marshall worldview, the gun is god. This concept was put very nicely in a blog by Garry Wills in the New York Review of Books:

“The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?”

McDonnell’s statement drew immediate rebuke from educators and political opponents. Meg Gruber, president of the Virginia Education Association, says expanding the number of guns in schools is not the answer. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., called McDonnell’s statement “outrageous, extreme and reprehensible.”

What makes McDonnell’s views so out of synch is that Virginia Tech was the scene of an even worse bloodletting in 2007, when a mentally ill student opened fire in classrooms. Some people touched by that horror are involved in gun control issues and still have to listen to the likes of McDonnell.

This time around, it probably will be different. The fact that so many of the victims in Newtown were primary schoolers is changing the equation, as is the fact that the right wing has been weakened by its losses in November’s election.

As the mood shifts, pressure is coming from other quarters, namely from big public retirement funds. One such group pressured Cerebus Capital Management into putting on the block its share in Freedom Group, the firm that makes the Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle used in Connecticut and also in the D.C. sniper slayings 10 years ago. Big outdoors goods retailers like Dick’s are scaling back weapons sales.

They seem to be getting the message. McDonnell and Marshall obviously never will.

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13 responses to “McDonnell: Get Real On Assault Rifles”

  1. I wouldn’t count my chickens just yet. Joe Manchin: ‘I’m so proud of the NRA’
    West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who suggested earlier in the week that the time had come for some gun control restrictions, said on Wednesday that he’s “not supporting a ban on anything” and he repeatedly defended and praised the NRA.

    “I’m not supporting a ban on anything. I’m supporting a conversation on everything,” Manchin said on West Virginia MetroNews.

  2. DJRippert Avatar

    The facts of Newtown are becoming more and more clear. I won’t use the shooter’s real name because that’s what these twisted d-bags want – immortality. I won’t give it to them. I’ll call the shooter The Fruitcake from Hell. I don’t care if anybody thinks that’s insensitive. I have no pity for anybody who kills 6 year old children. I am sure he is burning in the hellfire of eternity and even that may be too good for him. I also have zero respect for his mother. I’ll explain that later but for now I’ll call her ShooterMommy.

    Here’s what’s coming out. ShooterMommy got divorced and developed some odd fascination with “the shooting sports”. OK, no problem so far. Unfortunately, ShooterMommy had the Fruitcake from Hell living in her house. ShooterMommy knew the Fruitcake from Hell was unbalanced because ShooterMommy tried to have The Fruitcake from Hell involuntarily committed to a mental institution in the immediate run up to the slaughter in Newtown..

    So, what did ShooterMommy do?

    Let’s review – You are living with an adult so deranged that you have filed papers to have the deranged person involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. You also have multiple high capacity weapons in the house. Do you:

    1. Lock up the weapons?
    2. Put trigger locks on the weapons?
    3. Give the weapons to the police until the mental issue is resolved?
    4. Do nothing?

    While the facts are certainly being established, it seems to me that “do nothing” was one hell of a bad idea.

    The half-asses in Hartford didn’t do much better. In a state with strict gun registration laws the state legislature (or its deputized agents) knew two things:

    1. ShooterMommy had some serious firepower in the house.
    2. ShooterMommy thought her live-in son was crazy enough to require involuntary commitment to a mental hospital.

    What should the state government and its agents have done:

    1. Demand that the registered weapons be removed from the home?
    2. Advised ShooterMommy that she should lock up her weapons?
    3. Nothing.

    Apparently, “nothing” was the choice. So much for registering firearms.

    Now, let’s say the assault weapons ban is in place. What changes?

    1. ShooterMommy would have had to make do with the Bushmaster M4 post ban weapon that was designed to be compliant with the federal assault weapons ban. That weapon can be seen here –

    2. ShooterMommy would have still had the handguns although they might have had smaller magazines.

    Now what?

    1. The Fruitcake from Hell decides that ShooterMommy’s weapons are too low power and never enters the elementary school?

    2. The fruitcake from hell decides to take ShooterMommy’s somewhat less powerful arsenal to the elementary school?

    Every rational person sadly knows that the answer is 2.

    So, then what happens? The Fruitcake from Hell only kills 16 kids and 4 adults? Yeah, that’s better than 20 kids and 6 adults but does it really solve the problem. Would people be happy to know that “only” 16 first graders were slaughtered? And frankly, I have no faith that the assault weapons ban would have made one iota of a difference in Newtown.

    Let’s quit talking about things that won’t matter. Let’s start talking about things that might matter:

    Maybe no clip fed weapons. No autoloaders for revolvers. One (or two) handguns per month. Registration. Temporary removal of guns when the situation warrants.

    I am not sure that these ideas are good or bad. I just know that a bunch of politicians spouting bullshit that they know won’t matter in order to get re-elected boils my blood.

  3. the bottom line is fruitcakes will always be around. Bad parenting will always be around.

    you have to have a system that prevents crazy people from getting their hands on weapons that are essentially just as deadly as automatic weapons.

    Talking about mental health or how to find and lock up whackos before they kill is futile – it’s as futile as watching all those SWAT guys at the conclusion of a mass kill – swarm the site as if they’re doing anything particularly useful other than getting a chance to play with their toys.

    Does anyone else find the predictable SWAT “display” these days as something weird? I think the SWAT should exist and there is a legitimate role for them but they “present” way too much.

    anyhow.. the focus on guns has to be to recognize that the technology with the clips has essentially negated the original restrictions on automatic weapons.

    No, we will not stop killers… but Newtown could have been 2 teachers killed and no kids or some such. Bad and horrible but not the hideous reality that we now have.

    the idea of arming teachers. to put glocks and AR15s in schools and put weapons training in the job descriptions of teachers is the most ludicrous thing I’ve heard in my life and I’m now convinced that some in the GOP – like McDonnell are truly idiots unfit to lead.

    McDonnell aspires to higher office. The man is an idiot. He ought not be Gov.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      I have a six year old son. He goes to a school. Unless (and until) you can get all the dangerous guns “off the street” I think having an armed security guard or policeman at the school makes good sense. If a policeman or security guard is too expensive then I would support arming a few school employees who are fully trained in the use of firearms and the management of crisis situations.

      LarryG – smaller clips won’t stop the next psycho. Unless you have a plan to ban all guns and a plan to go out and get all guns – what happened in Newtown will happen again. You know it will and so do I. When that happens an assault weapons ban might result in fewer deaths. An armed policeman, security guard or assistant principal might stop the killing altogether.

      I hate the idea of needing armed guards in schools but that’s where we are.

  4. DJRippert Avatar

    During the assault weapons ban from 1994 – 2004, 234 Americans were killed or injured in mass shootings.

    In the 10 years prior to the enactment of the federal assault weapons ban (1984 – 1993), 208 Americans were killed or injured in mass shootings.

    However, the nine years from 2004 – today have resulted in 460 Americans being killed or injured in mass shootings.

    One thing for sure – the assault weapons ban did not prevent mass shootings. Whether the ban lessened their frequency or severity is a good question. A quick glance at the numbers seems to show a slowing in the growth of Americans killed or injured in mass shootings during the 10 years of the ban.

    Please note, I wrote “slowing in the growth” not “reduced”.

    Three mass shootings at schools occurred during the 10 year assault weapons ban.

  5. re: arming teachers. this is a VERY BAD IDEA. I think there is something wrong with folks who see this as a solution.

    A security guard is going to cost 100K or more per school. That’s two less teachers in the K-6 budget.

    re: mass killings

    tell me how many were accomplished with an automatic weapon.

    Can you explain to me the logic that says we cannot keep guns out of the hands of crazy people when we have done just that with automatic weapons.

    It’s 100 true that a determined crazy person could get their hands on an automatic weapon and use it in a mass killing.

    If trying to keep these kinds of weapons out of the hands of crazy people is so futile, how come it has worked?

  6. DJRippert Avatar

    “If trying to keep these kinds of weapons out of the hands of crazy people is so futile, how come it has worked?”.

    There are 300 million non-automatic firearms in the United States. There are 120,000 legally owned fully automatic weapons in the US.

    Four tenths of 1% of all weapons in civilian hands in the US are fully automatic.

    Assuming an even distribution of probabilities, you could have 100 mass shootings without one use of an automatic weapon and it would be statistically normal.

    You are barking up the wrong tree here, LarryG.

    This is a sensible idea (from T-Mac):

    McDonnell wants to arm school employees. McAuliffe wants policemen in all schools – not just high schools and middles schools (as is the case in Virginia today).

    Cuccinelli wants to bury his head in the sand and talk about how sad mental illness has become.

  7. Handgun registration has been upheld by the courts as constitutional. Registration of long guns has been rejected. Registration of automatic arms is constitutional. I’ve read a case that upheld a ban on assault rifles, but am not fully convinced the Supreme Court would agree. What is an assault rifle?

    I keep coming back to Larry’s original point – it’s about large magazines or clips. How big can a clip be before it’s too big?

    Is the ability to reload or re-chamber quickly subject to regulation/prohibition? A trained soldier in the Civil War could load and fire a musket with a cap three times per minute. The War Department refused to purchase large quantities of breach loaders because it feared too many bullets would used. I am not sure the government can regulate the speed of loading and reloading.

    Bottom line, regulation of the size of clips is probably the place to go, but, even there, I think the taxation approach is better and more certain than the prohibition approach.

  8. re: barking up the wrong tree

    you cannot catch crazy people BEFORE they go off their rocker and kill people unless you want to have a system that is so intrusive as to scare the bejesus out of anyone who has had an anger moment.

    it’s just plain dumb.

    guards in schools. are going to cost money – and cost teacher to student ratios unless you are willing to pay higher taxes for them.

    if you CAN keep automatic weapons out of the hands of crazy people – and you can – check the restrictions then why not high capacity mags.

    re: how many is too many?

    6 or 10 is enough. if you want more, then get a background check, FBI fingerprints, and have the local law enforcement vouch for you – and bear direct responsibility if it falls into someone else’s hands – especially a crazy person.

    we can do this there are dozens of ways to do it if we have the will.

    it’s just plain dumb to keep playing this game and talk about arming teachers – the same folks you guys have been saying are failures at education.

    If you are going to arm teachers, or have security guards, and not control high capacity clips, then at least give the teachers and security guards automatic weapons.

    Our problem these days, whether it’s health care, or transportation or guns is we let perfect become the enemy of good.

    I swear. I do not know what is wrong with us. Simple things we cannot agree on.

  9. there are 23 schools and 3000 teachers in our country. I bet NoVa has 10 times that number.

    are you folks really serious?

  10. re: ” Is the ability to reload or re-chamber quickly subject to regulation/prohibition? A trained soldier in the Civil War could load and fire a musket with a cap three times per minute. ”

    the guy in Aurora was taken down as he tried to load another clip.

    it’s no guarantee of course but the only alternative if you do not have that restriction is for teachers.. and I emphasize this – grade school teachers to DIE trying to rush the guy.

    it’s bad enough for the Kids to die but putting a teacher in the role of having to die to try to save the kids is horrible.

    and we as a society cluck our tongues about the “tragedy” and then stick our fingers in our ears.. when we ought to be doing something about it.

    A mom of 5 kids died trying to disarm this piece of slime and we can do nothing about it but quibble.

    that’s where we are….. we as a society should be ashamed.

  11. All the talk about banning guns is driving a buying panic.
    Address large magazines/clips through the taxation of their manufacture and transfer. But the politicos would rather have a media circus and drive crazy behavior than fix anything.

  12. yup…. as soon as they get this part figured out… they’ll discover that people can make 3-D guns….

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