Big Brother in Virginia
Leftist gun control advocates use divide and conquer tactics on a routine basis, to deprive Americans of 2d Amendment rights. A clear current example is the current effort by Virginia’s new governor (and Clinton apparatchik) Terry McAuliffe to impose new restrictions on Virginia gun ownership, though it is unlikely to get through the state’s Republican-dominated legislature.
The Washington Post lamented this likely outcome in typical fashion, beginning an editorial by invoking polls purporting to show that “Virginians, by overwhelming margins, favor tighter restrictions on gun purchases and ownership.” Thus, by this narrative, which would warm the heart of any totalitarian from Mussolini to Big Brother, the evil minority (through a representative legislature!) is denying the will of the righteous majority. And indeed, McAuliffe’s proposal is tailored to attack just a small minority of gun owners, to wit: collectors first, pretend to support hunters and everyone else, and drive a wedge into defenders of the 2d Amendment.
The tactic presents gun control proposals that sound reasonable to many people, including most Americans who support 2d Amendment rights, and start nibbling. McAuliffe’s proposed restrictions focus on two favorite targets of 2d Amendment opponents, closing the so-called gun show loophole and limiting handgun purchases to one per month. There is little or no evidence that such restrictions keep guns from felons, or reduce crime or gun violence. But that’s of no consequence to the left, rather it’s a start. The tactic works because it really targets only a small minority of gun owners, and a tiny minority of the population as a whole -- gun collectors.
The “gun show loophole” applies to private sellers at gun shows, who are not 01 FFL federal firearms licensees (i.e., those who own commercial gun shops and are also the majority of sellers at typical gun shows.) 01 FFLs (both commercially and at gun shows) sell the vast majority of the modern handguns and sporting rifles (assault guns in leftist lingo), that so bedevil gun controllers. These sellers must do federal background checks.
Private sellers might offer similar wares, but typically focus on collectables that are marketed to other collectors. They also tend to overvalue inventories, making them unappetizing compared to what the licensed dealers offer. And they are prohibited from knowingly selling to felons, mentally disturbed individuals, or others restricted under federal law. They just are not required to do background checks. How often do felons and mentally disturbed people drive out of their way to gun shows, pay the entrance fees, and successfully navigate their way to a private seller of a desirable modern firearm? Hardly ever, and then they still have to get past a wary seller, who is most likely an upstanding citizen who has no desire to break the law or incur liabilities.
Such legislation helps nobody, but it sounds good. It only immediately injures the small minority of gun owners that collect firearms for a hobby, making it politically palatable in an otherwise pro-gun state.
The same with a one purchase per month handgun limit. Few people have the desire or financial wherewithal to buy more than one gun a month, and so the restriction sounds reasonable. Most people that do are pretty well-off gun collectors. But does imposing this restriction do any good? Again, there is scant evidence that it does, and only a very few, very blue states so restrict purchases. It is just a way to limit gun rights in a palatable way.
The gun controllers, at least at this stage of the game, are particularly “respectful” of the interests of hunters. Often the politician in charge of the move (as in McAuliffe’s case) is identified as a gun owner or hunter himself (though McAuliffe has made no secret of his anti-gun rights stance.) In particular, the favorite firearm of President Obama and Joe Biden -- the shotgun -- is kept off limits to restriction, since it is also the most common and versatile gun for hunters. Trying to drive a wedge between hunters (including the new class of liberal “hipster” hunters) and other gun owners is a common tactic, straight from Saul Alinsky’s book. Thus, when shotguns are used in notorious incidents, like the Navy Yard shootings (where originally police and news organizations were quick to wrongly identify the weapon as an AR-15), or an incident in January 2014, at a Columbia, Maryland mall, there is no conspicuous call for restrictions -- yet.
Virginians need only look across the Potomac into Maryland to see the end game of the “reasonable” restrictions proposed by Governor McAuliffe. Maryland moved from state background checks and one-gun-per-month limits, to imposing waiting periods for pistols and modern sporting rifles. Even that proved insufficient when the political opportunity the came after the Connecticut shootings in 2012. That led to far more sweeping restrictions which now outlaw modern sporting rifles, impose licensing requirements for all new handgun purchases, and limit magazine capacity to ten rounds. Local gun stores are being driven out of business across the state, and Beretta is moving its Maryland facility to Tennessee, at the cost of hundreds more jobs.
And while Marylanders (at least outside the D.C. suburbs and Baltimore) have fought back by electing a Republican governor, the new attorney general (Brian Frosh) was the chief legislative proponent of the new laws, and the legislature still remains solidly Democrat. More to the point, the hypocrisy and dishonesty of Maryland’s leftist politicians should send a chill up the spine of any supporter of 2d Amendment rights, in Virginia or nationally.
In Maryland, in the months between the passage of the new gun control law in February 2013 and its effective date in October, those “minor, reasonable” restrictions already in place worked to frustrate and hinder Maryland gun owners from purchasing soon-to-be banned or heavily restricted firearms. The one-gun-per-month limit, seven-day waiting period, and state-mandated background checks created a confused and backlogged mess that denied honest gun owners their rights and put them in legal peril. Yet, despite the difficulties and risks, gun sales boomed, as Marylanders purchased tens of thousands of high-capacity pistols and modern sporting rifles. Marylanders today own many more of these “dangerous” weapons than would have otherwise been the case.
Yet in his recent campaign, with Marylanders owning more guns than ever before, Frosh ludicrously claimed that the new law would save “thousands of lives.” Of course, it hasn’t saved anyone, though perhaps the new glut of weapons has deterred a crime or two. And unusually, Maryland officials seemed to go out of their way to turn the Columbia Mall shooting into a would-be mass killing (when there is contrary evidence) that was frustrated only because the shooter had a shotgun rather than an AR-15. Remember, shotguns good (for now) other guns bad.
Virginians should be thankful that alert legislators seem ready to put the kibosh on McAuliffe’s initiative. He will keep trying.