Gun lobby full of holes
By Dan Casey
On the surface, Christopher Bryan Speight, Nidal Malik Hasan and Aaron Poseidon Jackson seem like three very different fellows.
Speight, 39, is a relatively uneducated white guy with no kids who worked as a security guard and lived with his sister's family in Appomattox County.
Hasan, also 39 and raised in Roanoke, is a physician of Palestinian descent and an Army major who was stationed in Texas.
Jackson, who was 24 at the time of his death, lived in a Stafford County trailer home with his two children and their mother. He was black.
One thing the three men have in common is the commonwealth of Virginia issued each of them concealed handgun permits.
Another is that each is implicated in gun massacres that in total claimed 24 innocent lives.
Speight allegedly shot and killed eight people in Appomattox County on Tuesday. Hasan is accused of killing 13 and wounding 30 during the Fort Hood massacre in November. Jackson killed his own two children and their mother at their home in May 2008 before taking his own life.
Now at this point, the denizens of the gun lobby are groaning loudly. Here is what they're braying:
Concealed handgun permit holders commit crime at a rate lower than the general public!
The Fort Hood killing spree occurred in Texas and shouldn't count!
Speight (allegedly) used a rifle! Handguns and concealed carry permits have nothing to do with it!
As for Jackson, well, nobody could have foreseen his murderous rampage. Stuff happens, you know?
All of the above arguments happen to be true.
What also is true is that these three cases prove that Virginia issues concealed carry permits to some total whack jobs.
Those permits are public records, by the way. We know that Speight, Hasan and Jackson had them because news reporters found the records in courthouses.
At this point you may be weary of hearing about homicidal maniacs with Virginia handgun permits. You may think, "Hmm. Something is not quite right here."
Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan County, agrees with you. His bill, HB 79, now under consideration in the General Assembly, would fix that.
Those public records would become secret to everybody except police.
That would not necessarily reduce the number of insane permit holders committing mass murder, of course. But at least it would reduce the likelihood that you would learn Virginia had issued gun permits to them.
I left phone messages with Ware on Thursday and Friday to give him a chance to explain why this bill is desirable. He did not call back.
I also contacted Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League. In an e-mail, he replied:
"Many who get concealed handgun permits do so because they are under serious threat from things like being a witness at a trial or from dangerous ex-spouses.
"The lives and security of these permit holders are no less important than the lives and security of judges, police officers, and prosecutors." Their personal information already is sealed by law, he noted.
What Van Cleave left out is this:
Trifling facts about mass murderers with handgun permits can be rather inconvenient for gun lobbyists as they attempt to persuade lawmakers to liberalize concealed-carry laws.
That is happening as you read this.
The General Assembly is considering a raft of bills that would, under certain circumstances, legalize concealed-carry on college campuses and in bars, schools, courthouses and other government buildings.
My favorite is the bill that would legalize handgun hiding during church services (with a pastor's permission) and in restaurants that serve alcohol (with no restriction on whether handgun hiders imbibe).
That one is sponsored by Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg.
Gov. Bob McDonnell, by the way, has pledged to sign some kind of concealed-carry-in-bars legislation.
You read that right.
Some very powerful interests in Virginia want to make it legal for concealed carry permit holders, such as Christopher Bryan Speight, to take their hidden handguns into bars.
But they don't want you to know whether the state gave them permission to do it.
God help us all come July 1.
Dan Casey's column runs Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.