by Bob Barr
Virginia Democrats flexed their muscle in Richmond this week; passing four gun control bills through the Senate Judiciary Committee. This action had been promised by Gov. Ralph Northam since his Party gained majorities in both houses of the state legislature last November. As with other state governors who believe that the best way to stop criminals from committing murder is to make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to purchase and possess firearms, these measures will do just that – make it harder for law abiding citizens of Virginia to exercise their rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
Specifically, the Northam-endorsed proposals will limit citizens to one handgun purchase a month, mandate universal background checks, and allow local governments to selectively ban firearms from public events. Most troubling, one measure authorizes law enforcement to preemptively seize firearms from individuals they deem to be a threat (a so-called “red flag” law). But there’s more.
The “crown jewel” of Northam’s expansive gun control agenda is a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” This measure is expected to pass through committee this week, which then will trigger a long-anticipated showdown in the General Assembly.
In a concession of sorts, Northam agreed to include in the gun ban a “grandfather” clause allowing individuals who currently own a to-be-banned firearm, to continue to do so without automatically violating the law. They would, however, be required to register their newly banned “assault weapon” with state authorities.
This change illustrates the true fraud behind Northam’s gun control push – it was never really to address an “emergency” about public safety. Rather, it is a partisan “spiking the football” following the electoral sweep by Virginia Democrats last November. In grandstanding about their legislative clout and mocking concerned citizens as “losers” and “nuts,” however, Democrats have needlessly provoked an intense confrontation in the state.
This is no ordinary political stand-off. Democrats indicated they had every intention of doing whatever it took to implement their sweeping gun ban; including, if necessary, using the National Guard. This overheated rhetoric, on top of the radical policies being proposed, prompted more than 90 Virginia localities to declare themselves “gun sanctuaries,” placing local law enforcement and government officials in direct confrontation with Richmond and state officials.
All this is to say that if Democrats knew their promises were nothing more than a gimmick that would be partially rolled back at the 11th hour, it was highly irresponsible to push the confrontation this far knowing how it was tearing the state apart. This process has fostered genuine fear in the eyes of Virginia’s that their fundamental rights were going to be taken away, by force if necessary. As governments have understood for centuries, creating fear then becomes justification for more and expanded government power.
It need not have played out this way. Northam and his Democrat cohorts could have taken the time to craft specific legislative proposals that might actually address real-world gun violence issues — for instance, cracking down on “straw purchase” gun sales, and funding improved mental health programs in the Commonwealth. Such measures would have enjoyed bipartisan support and would not have raised the serious constitutional problems inherent in the gun control measures Northam is pursuing now.
Working to implement measures that actually might reduce the risk of further gun violence, however, would have involved real effort on the part of the Governor and Virginia legislators; effort they obviously were unwilling to expend. In their calculus, taking the low road and regurgitating the tired rhetoric about the dangers posed by “assault weapons,” “silencers” and “high capacity magazines” – while at the same time and clamoring for absolute “universal background checks” — was the easier course; even if it meant having to back down a bit when confronted with reality.
In the most fundamental sense, pursuing any course other than that on which Northam, et al. now have embarked, would not fit the gun control model to which the Democrat Party in Virginia and nationally has become so tightly bound.
Northam and the Virginia legislature are remaking the Commonwealth of Virginia in the image of Michael Bloomberg and George Soros; an image bearing no resemblance to the model of freedom and liberty designed by truly great Virginians like George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. For the sake of their, and our posterity, let us pray that this rebranding of Virginia will be reversed in the coming election cycles.