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Peter’s Take: What Virginia Should Do About Guns

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Background

In its recent front-page editorial about the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the NY Times editorial Board stated:

[M]otives do not matter to the dead in California, nor did they in Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and far too many other places. The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms…It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.

There are reasonable regulations — consistent with the Second Amendment right to bear arms — that Virginia can and should adopt to reduce gun deaths.

Discussion

If a particular gun control proposal is consistent with the Second Amendment and is shown to be likely to prevent multiple future fatalities, it doesn’t matter whether it would have prevented other fatalities. The life saved could be yours.

For example, Virginia can and should close the so-called “gun show loophole.” This loophole should be closed because, under current Virginia law, background checks that are required to be performed on people who seek to buy guns at Virginia gun stores are NOT required to be performed on people who buy guns at Virginia gun shows.

All members of the Virginia House of Delegates representing Arlington — Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, Rip Sullivan, and Mark Levine — support Virginia legislation to close this loophole. An online petition supporting closing this loophole now has over 30,000 (!) signatures.

Another significant set of gun control laws that Virginia can and should enact would tighten the criteria governing access to guns by people with documented severe mental or emotional problems. A report from the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence determined that of 109 domestic homicides in Virginia last year, 64 were committed with guns.

The group recommended state-level legislation, which [Governor] McAuliffe has backed, that would prohibit gun possession by anyone under a protective order or those convicted of misdemeanors related to domestic violence.

Conclusion

Even Justice Scalia has acknowledged that:

Nothing in our opinion [about Second Amendment protections] should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings…

All we need in Virginia is for our legislators to have the courage to legislate within the constitutional boundaries that the U.S. Supreme Court has provided to them.

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