More guns, less safety
By Luanne Traud
I spent the better part of a day recently hunting down and tracking the progress of a dozen or two gun bills making their way through the General Assembly.
The results could be boiled down to this: Any attempt to regulate guns was killed outright. Most attempts to foster an anything-goes attitude for gun buyers was advanced.
Given the sheer number of bills advancing and the breadth with which they would expand Virginia's already liberal gun laws, I couldn't help but be struck by this thought:
What additional expansion would be pushed next year? Because there will always be more.
I know what some of you are thinking: There goes one of them again. That liberal, pansy Roanoke Times editorial board, if given its druthers, would round up all guns and melt them down to cast a statue honoring the socialist god of journalists.
Please, bear with me and hear me out. I will ask the same from those who also hold untrue and unfair caricatures of gun-toters as 'fraidy cats worried that harm is waiting around the next corner, bar stool or PTA meeting.
I'm not anti-gun. I've been around them most of my life, had them in my home, even shot a few. But if I never handled another gun, it would be soon enough. They aren't a part of my life, but I can respect that others hold a differing view.
I don't shrink or cringe from the sight and hold no more emotion toward a handgun than I do a toaster oven. The same, I suspect, is true of the vast majority of gun owners who have them for target practice, hunting or collecting and might or might not have a permit to carry concealed.
Guns don't factor into most of our everyday lives. True, there is a minority of Virginians who wouldn't leave the house without one, and a minority for whom the sight of one locked in a gun case causes anxiety.
Unfortunately, it is those minorities with their tug-of-war passions of must-have-it-all, shouldn't-have-any that have polluted the lawmaking process.
If only our senators and delegates could legislate on a curve, toss the outliers and focus on the reasonable. But how can they when gun-rights organizations throw not only money but hysteria into every election cycle? Does it now strike those who stocked up on guns and ammunition after President Obama's election how foolish the claims were that he'd outlaw sales of either?
Or how bizarre it was that the Democratic candidate in Virginia's gubernatorial race -- a huge friend of gun rights -- was discredited because he supported efforts to close the gun show loophole after the Virginia Tech massacre.
And, yes, I know I'll hear from the vocal fringe arguing there isn't a loophole. Yet there is, and it's one that could be closed easily, with little fuss or inconvenience, but it won't be. Lawmakers of all stripes are too chicken to consider reasonable legislation lest they face the wrath of gun-rights advocates during re-election.
We can save the gun show discussion for another year, as attempts this year to address it have been stymied.
Instead, there seems a rush to allow more people to carry concealed weapons into ever more places. One bill in particular mixes guns and alcohol by allowing concealed carry in bars. Even if the gun-toter is legally barred from drinking, there would be no way to know someone is packing unless something bad happens.
Former Gov. Tim Kaine vetoed this bill last year, but it's expected to be greeted warmly by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
I've listened to supporters who portray all concealed-carriers as law-abiding citizens who wouldn't think of mixing a six-shooter and a shot of whiskey. How do they know?
Thugs aren't the only ones who have killed people with guns. People with concealed carry permits have killed accidentally and intentionally. Doesn't matter which. Dead is dead.
Another bill likely to pass would do away with the restriction limiting Virginians to one gun purchase a month. It could open the gates to mass buys that end up in the hands of criminals. Not every gun buyer is worthy of such blind trust.
It occurs to me that those pushing for everloosening restrictions will win the day in Richmond this year. But lifting restrictions will prove fatal to their cause in the long run when bad things inevitably happen.
I want for me and mine to be just as safe and secure as you want for you and yours. None of these bills gets us there.
Traud is a member of The Roanoke Times editorial board.