Gun crazy

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In the wake of the recent, horrific attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 20 others in Tucson, Arizona—and with the fourth anniversary of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech fast approaching—the last thing you might expect to see is some dude with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle slung over his shoulder strolling through the halls of Virginia’s State Capitol Building.

 

In the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, Virginia still permits gun show dealers to sell without performing background checks, and allows residents to purchas one handgun per month.

But there he was, waiting patiently outside of a state senator’s office during last week’s annual “Lobby Day,” in which citizen activists of all shapes and sizes descend upon Richmond to petition the General Assembly on behalf of their favorite causes.

Outside of the Capitol building, a small group of counter-demonstrators (including a number of Virginia Tech survivors) gathered to urge Virginia’s lawmakers to toughen the commonwealth’s increasingly lax gun control laws. But they were vastly outnumbered by pro-gun groups such as the Virginia Citizens Defense League, who regard any restrictions on gun ownership as a gross violation of their Second Amendment rights.

Of course, there can be little doubt which side of this argument our current Assembly embraces. Last year was a banner year for pro-gun legislation, with over 60 bills introduced, and the upcoming session looks to be equally active. While the gun lobby scored some significant victories last year (most notably, a law that allows patrons of alcohol-serving establishments to carry concealed weapons), it failed to overturn Virginia’s one-handgun-purchase-per-month law, and is surely champing at the bit to take another crack at it.

The scary thing is, it might just happen. Even though a recent study showed that Virginia already provides more guns used in out-of-state crimes than all but two other states, the legislative momentum is toward allowing greater access to deadly weapons, not less. And since Virginia currently permits unlicensed gun show dealers to sell firearms without performing background checks, any law repealing the one-per-month limit should include a clause that officially changes the state motto to “America’s Gun Store.”

The thing we’ll never understand is, why? Why in the world would anyone need to buy more than one handgun per month? And after Virginia Tech (and Tucson, and Columbine, and all of the other heartbreaking massacres), why do people continue to insist that access to extended 30-round bullet clips is an inalienable American right?

Yes, we’re fully aware of the argument that if everyone had a gun, nobody would dare use one. (Even though in Tucson, which boasts some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation, the only bystander with a concealed weapon almost shot the wrong person, and then slammed the guy who had disarmed the killer up against a wall.) But even if Virginia were to pass a law requiring everyone to pack heat, wouldn’t it still make sense to limit the amount of damage a lone shooter could do before some law-abiding citizen popped him in the head?

We accept that we are on the losing end of this issue, at least for now. According to Gallup, nearly half of all Americans remain convinced that owning a gun makes them safer, despite all evidence to the contrary, and our powers of persuasion just aren’t strong enough to change that. Still, we continue to believe in a utopian future where extensive background checks stop people with documented mental problems from purchasing Glock pistols, and only police and military personnel have access to assault weapons.

So shoot us.

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