Last July, Republican state lawmakers shut down a special session to address mass shootings in just 90 minutes, refusing to consider any gun regulations until after the election.
Voters, in response, booted them out of office. Less than a week into the new legislative session, the now-Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee advanced multiple gun control measures that Republicans had blocked for years.
The legislation is hardly radical: The bills call for background checks, limiting handgun purchases to one a month, and allowing law enforcement to temporarily confiscate firearms from those at risk of harming themselves or others. There’s also a bill that would allow localities to ban guns at certain public events (like, say, white supremacist rallies).
Polls show such “common sense” gun measures are supported by a sizeable majority of Virginians (upwards of 80 percent when it comes to background checks and red flag laws). But this isn’t about what makes sense, it’s about power.
So, while Dems are moving cautiously (they’ve already killed a proposed bill that would have banned possession of assault weapons), gun supporters unwilling to accept any regulation at all are already flooding the state Capitol. Out-of-state militias, including some identified as anti-government extremists, have vowed to show up, heavily armed, at a January 20th rally, sparking fears of “another Charlottesville.”
I’m reminded of Ray Liotta’s cutthroat divorce lawyer in Marriage Story: “If we start from a place of reasonable, and they start from a place of crazy, when we
settle, we’ll be somewhere between reasonable and crazy. Which is still crazy.”
Democrats, so far, seem to be aiming at relatively modest goals. Maybe it’s time to be a little more ambitious.