RESIDENTS BRAGGING about the attributes of their home state are generally a source of pride for which elected officials like to take credit. So hats off to Virginia lawmakers for their success in making the commonwealth a place that illegal gun traffickers boast is the absolute best place for them to do business.
“There’s no limit to how many guns I can go buy from the store. I can go get 20 guns from the store tomorrow. . . . I can do that Monday through Friday. . . . They might start looking at me, but in Virginia, our laws are so little, I can give guns away.” That testimonial to Virginia’s lax gun laws was caught on a wiretap in a sweeping investigation of a gun-trafficking ring that operated up the Interstate 95 corridor from Virginia to New York. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday announced a 627-count indictment charging 24 people, some with violent criminal records and alleged ties to the Bloods street gang. Authorities recovered 217 guns, including assault weapons and a Thompson submachine gun, in a scheme that involved straw purchases of guns at retailers and gun shows in Virginia and their subsequent transport by car or bus to Manhattan and Brooklyn, where buyers paid $1,200 for a handgun and $2,200 for an assault weapon.
“When you hear a trafficker boasting about the weak gun laws in Virginia, it is crystal clear that this needs to be addressed,” said acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, obviously frustrated about having to deal with the dangerous consequences of another state’s irresponsible gun laws. New York has strict gun-control laws but they are undermined when guns flow in unchecked from other states. And, as Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring pointed out to us, logic holds that guns that are so easily trafficked out of state also are falling into the hands of criminals in Virginia, making the public less safe and increasing the risks to law enforcement.
Virginia had a law on the books for 19 years limiting gun purchases to one a month, but — despite its success in helping to curtail the illicit gun trade and an appeal from Virginia Tech families — it was repealed in 2012. Efforts to restore the limit — as well as enact other common-sense measures that have popular support, such as universal background checks — have been killed by a General Assembly that is captive to the gun lobby.
It is way past time for Virginia to come to its senses and plug this gaping hole in the public safety net. Unless, of course, it enjoys the bragging rights of Virginia as a place for gun runners.