WHEN VIRGINIA Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said late last year that he would introduce a package of gun safety legislation, Republican lawmakers immediately dismissed the initiative as a political stunt and the legislation as dead on arrival — well before it had arrived. Other bills in Richmond designed to promote safer handling and use of firearms have suffered a similar fate, on more or less party-line votes, in the Republican-led legislature. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers, in lockstep with the National Rifle Association, have pushed bills that would make it easier to bring handguns into schools and airports.
While many Americans might assume it is common sense, or at least unobjectionable, to keep pistols out of the hands of children under the age of 5 (to cite one Democratic-sponsored bill that was defeated in Richmond), relatively few would think it wise to make it easier to carry them into airports (to cite a GOP-sponsored measure going nowhere).
When it comes to gun ownership, Virginia — site of the bloodiest mass shooting in U.S. history, the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech — is already among the most permissive states. Most people age 21 or older can openly carry a loaded handgun even without a permit, and in 2012 the state scrapped a law limiting handgun purchases by individuals to one a month, which worked for almost 20 years.
That’s still not enough for the pro-gun crowd in Richmond, which persists in trying to expand gun rights and widen loopholes at every opportunity. It’s not enough for Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr. (R-Louisa), who sponsored a bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons on school property outside of normal school hours (when plenty of students still might be on the premises). Fortunately, that measure has stalled.
Other GOP-backed bills that seem likely to pass would allow holders of concealed handgun permits to openly carry loaded long-barreled weapons (negating local ordinances that may forbid it in the interest of safety) and grant concealed handgun permits that would never expire, thereby neutering the state’s ability, under the current five-year renewal process, to determine whether a gun owner had lost his or her sight or is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Of some 30 bills that would improve gun safety, the only one that seemed to have a chance of enactment was sponsored by Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-Arlington). It would keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, if only briefly, following conviction. Even that modest measure looks doomed, as few Republicans backed it.
Mass shootings, other gun violence and everyday mishaps continue to afflict this country at alarming rates, impelling legislative efforts to tighten the rules on firearms. It’s less clear what problem Republicans want to solve by relentlessly trying to relax restrictions. The GOP characterized Mr. McAuliffe’s proposed legislation as a stunt. But when it comes to stunt-like firearms legislation, Republicans have no equals.
Read more about this topic: