By Staff Reports
Published: February 17, 2010
Virginia's one-gun-a-month law worked. The bipartisan measure -- its passage was a product of pressure from Democrat Doug Wilder and Republican Richard Cullen, then U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia -- helped impair the drugs-for-guns circuit up and down the East Coast.
But some members of the General Assembly, such as Del. Scott Lingamfelter, want to repeal the law. They say that it has served its purpose, that it has been supplanted by instant background checks and related measures. They have a point.
One-gun-a-month served a practical function. But it also compromised important principles by infringing on the right to bear arms enshrined in the Constitution. Like Del. Joe Morrissey, who asked whether the law truly inconviences anyone, advocates of the measure stress that one gun a month should be enough for anyone; no one "needs" to buy more than that. Perhaps. On the other hand, rights are not supposed to be constrained by what some people think other people need. It could be argued that newspapers do not need to publish more than once a week, that nobody needs to buy more than two books a month, that the faithful do not need to attend church more than twice a year, or that no woman should need more than one abortion in her lifetime. Those are not decisions government should make.
We supported one-gun-a-month in 1993. But we have long argued that statutes and programs should not have eternal life. Otherwise America will gradually be smothered by relics such as the mohair subsidy, the national helium reserve, and "temporary" taxes dating back to the War of 1812. Now is as good a time as any to take a fresh look at one-gun-a-month. Careful consideration may lead to the conclusion that repeal is warranted -- and perhaps even overdue.