With the session recently adjourned and Democrats’ gun-control measures already dead, what has Richmond accomplished?
Republican majorities have consistently rejected Democratic proposals to bar guns from public libraries (H.B. 1856), allow localities to restrict firearms at meetings of local governments (S.B. 1303) or even strengthen firearm storage requirements for licensed day-care providers (H.B. 2372). Guns in churches? Indeed, Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) introduced legislation to repeal a 140-year-old state law prohibiting the carrying of guns and other dangerous weapons into a place of worship during a religious service (S.B. 1024). The Senate narrowly passed the bill on a party-line vote. Although the bill died in the Rules Committee, Republican legislators hope to revive it next year.
Guns in schools? Republicans have not yet been successful in amending current law to allow the arming of schoolteachers, and Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) recently issued an opinion concluding that Virginia law does not allow for the arming of school teachers and administrators.
Nevertheless, Lee County has filed a lawsuit in Virginia Circuit Court asking for a declaration that certain school employees may be deemed “conservators of the peace” and allowed to carry guns on school property. Former Virginia attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II is representing Lee County in the lawsuit. Depending on the outcome of the suit, Virginia schools’ lockdown drills may soon be overseen by gun-toting teachers and school aides.
Guns in the pipeline? Until it was repealed in 2012, Virginia’s “one-gun-a-month” law prohibited the purchase of more than one handgun per person in any 30-day period. Virginia adopted the law when legislators could no longer ignore compelling evidence that Virginia was the primary source of guns trafficked to other jurisdictions — along the “Iron Pipeline” of Interstate 95. To many, it also seemed that a diet of a dozen guns a year should satisfy even the most ardent law-abiding gun owner. Reports by The Post and others have documented the continued importance of widespread interstate trafficking of Virginia firearms in violent crimes conducted elsewhere.
As in past years, Democrats have introduced proposals to restore Virginia’s former statutory prohibition on the purchase of more than one gun per month (S.B. 1446, H.B. 2604). Though such plans are broadly supported by citizens and police organizations, Republican legislators have refused to allow the proposals to go to a full vote. Absent reinstatement of the law, it appears certain that gun traffickers will continue to purchase guns in “gun rights” states such as Virginia for resale to and reuse by criminals in Northeastern states that have enacted much tougher gun laws. Recently, a white nationalist was arrested in Maryland for stockpiling weapons and ammunition (many of which were purchased in Virginia) allegedly for a domestic terrorist attack.
More than “thoughts and prayers”? Is there any hope for sensible gun control in the near term? Perhaps. All 100 seats in the House of Delegates and all 40 Senate seats are up for election in 2019. Moderate suburban voters who support gun control tend to vote Democratic and have been voting in greater numbers. In addition, federal judges recently selected a House of Delegates redistricting map
that heavily favors Democrats and could markedly increase the likelihood that Democrats will control the House following the fall elections.
If so, Virginians will no longer need to rely on the bromide “thoughts and prayers” following gun violence. Instead, they will be able to thank their legislators for taking steps to prevent it.