Many more Virginians are packing heat
By Christian Trejbal
Last week, Roanoke Times columnist Dan Casey announced he had finally obtained a Virginia concealed carry permit.
Casey had never touched a handgun, but it did not matter. He took a one-hour, online course and passed a multiple choice quiz. That's adequate training in Virginia thanks to a bill sponsored by state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP's nominee for attorney general.
Cuccinelli's Democratic opponent, Del. Steve Shannon, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Creigh Deeds, both supported the bill, too, which will leave many Democrats holding their noses when they go to the polls in November.
What I found more surprising in Casey's column, was that 203,132 Virginians now have concealed carry permits.
That is a 50 percent jump since January 2007, when only 135,789 people had them. The number of permits tends to increase over time, but this sort of growth is astonishing.
The uptick began in the second half of 2008 and took off in 2009, according to Virginia State Police records.
Already this year, the number of valid permits has grown by 18 percent, outstripping growth in all of last year and on pace to more than double the 2007 growth rate.
I suspect few of the new tens of thousands packing heat are like Casey, either in lack of experience or desire to prove a point about a foolish law.
The impetus runs more deeply.
In the middle of 2008, Barack Obama secured the Democratic presidential nomination. Fables quickly spread among gun fans that he would take away their firearms.
Americans elected Obama, and gun dealers got busy. Virginia's concealed carry permits are a symptom of the same Obama Derangement Syndrome that has driven record gun sales nationwide.
America is more friendly to firearm ownership than it has been in a long time. All three branches of the federal government support the gun agenda.
Congress passed gun-friendly legislation this year, such as a bill to allow people to carry loaded weapons in many national parks, including long stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Obama has seized no weapons but has signed Congress' pro-gun bills.
And the Supreme Court this year swallowed gun-backers' spin on the Second Amendment. The court's five conservative justices ruled the militia clause does not count and created an individual right to own firearms with minimal interference from the state. The other four justices, in their dissent, rightly argued that all the words of the Constitution matter.
In Virginia, it is even sweeter for gun lovers. Both Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly backed pro-firearms bills, including one that would have allowed concealed carry in bars. The governor vetoed that one, but with two staunch gun supporters running for governor, it will almost certainly become law next year.
Despite all that, fear persists. Americans purchase more and more guns and seek permission to conceal them.
The most passionate among them display a religious-like zealotry. They preach their message of peace through firepower everywhere.
One gun-loving reader of our RoundTable editorial blog tastelessly exploited the recent shooting deaths of two Virginia Tech students to promote his agenda.
Other gun lovers put on public displays of affection with their weapons, openly carrying them outside presidential events. How is that ever a reasonable idea?
I do not begrudge them their right to carry. We are a nation and a commonwealth of laws. The Supreme Court ruled; Virginia's duly elected officials kowtowed.
A couple of more statistics deserve mention, though.
From 2007 to present, while the number of concealed carry permits jumped 50 percent in Virginia, 36 concealed carry permit holders around the nation killed seven law enforcement officers and 54 private citizens.
Possibly even more. Some states, unlike Virginia, keep concealed carry records secret, making accurate counts impossible. At least the commonwealth gets that right, sort of.