Fair warning: If you count yourself among Virginia’s (quite sizable) contingent of second amendment absolutists, you should stop reading now. As we sit here, furiously writing yet another post-gun massacre column, we’re in no mood to tiptoe around the delicate sensibilities of this country’s increasingly unhinged firearm fanatics.
In the wake of the horrible slaughter of 20 terrified, defenseless children and seven adults in Newtown, Connecticut, we’re done pretending that America’s proponents of unfettered access to military hardware for all citizens are anything but accessories to mass murder. This fetishization of large caliber, high-capacity weaponry is, in our humble opinion, an ongoing aberration in the American psyche, and one that basically guarantees that thousands of innocent souls will continue to be lost to madmen with easy access to the tools of death.
We realize that this is not a popular opinion. Even after suffering through the largest mass shooting since April 16, 2007—when a pathetic, self-hating slug named Seung-Hui Cho murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech—the asinine NRA fantasy that arming everyone in sight would magically solve the problem remains disturbingly prevalent. (In fact, according to the Virginia State Police, the number of criminal background checks requested by prospective gun owners shot to an all-time high the day after the Newtown massacre.)
Even our lustrously helmet-haired Governor Bob McDonnell got in on the action, musing during his monthly appearance on radio station WTOP that, if a Sandy Hook school official had been “trained and chose to have a weapon,” then there would have been “an opportunity to stop aggressors coming into the schools.”
This is Rush Limbaugh-level idiocy, and demonstrates a startling lack of empathy and common sense on the part of the Governor. (Which is exactly why the NRA later proposed its own moronic armed-guards-in-schools solution.) As the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has astutely pointed out, James Brady was standing a foot away from the most powerful man in the world, surrounded by the most highly trained protective force ever created, and he still got shot in the head. In what possible world is an elementary school principle with a .38 Special going to stop a truly determined killer with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammo?
What makes McDonnell’s sorry performance so much more galling (to us, anyway) is the fact that Virginia is a huge part of the gun violence problem. As a centrally located East Coast state with intentionally porous gun laws that allow the unrestricted sale of firearms at gun shows without a background check, we put more deadly weapons into the hands of shady characters than almost any other state in the union.
In a sane world, the stomach-churning mental image of a lunatic repeatedly firing .223 caliber bullets into the helpless, writhing bodies of children would make us finally stop, realize the folly of our current gun laws, and take immediate corrective action.
But we do not live in a sane world. And, as much as it pains us to say it, nothing will really change. Twenty tiny coffins will be lowered into the ground, politicians will fulminate and fight, a scrap of watered-down, ineffective legislation may or may not pass, and we’ll all sit around, waiting for the next trigger-happy loner to destroy yet another community, as we continue to weep for the sick weakness of our collective will.