by Bob Barr
In a move to burnish his already well-known anti-firearms credentials, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has unveiled a list of gun control measures he will press the commonwealth’s legislature to adopt in a special session as early as late June. Predictably, his proposals miss the mark widely.
While Northam’s announcement came within days of the May 31st shooting rampage in Virginia Beach by a former municipal worker, the proposed measures reflect steps that already could have been taken by government officials, or consist of proposals that would not have prevented the murderer’s actions. Unsurprisingly of course, facts and substance took a back seat to political and emotional triggers.
Unlike the mass murderer in Parkland, Florida last year — who exhibited clear evidence of mental problems and of an intent to commit murder by firearms — Virginia Beach killer DeWayne Craddock appears to have had no known or visible history of violence or of intent to engage in such horrific acts as he did. The “red flag law” Northam demands — which seriously undermines fundamental guarantees of due process as embodied in the Bill of Rights — would not have been applicable to Craddock.
Northam predictably includes mandatory “universal background checks” among the proposed solutions to mass murders such as committed by Craddock. However, by all accounts, there was nothing in Craddock’s background that would have prevented him from legally acquiring — as he did — the pair of handguns that were the instruments of his evil.
The governor takes aim also at “high capacity” magazines and “silencers” (one of which apparently was used by Craddock) among the “common sense” prohibitions deemed necessary to prevent mass shootings. As anyone with even a passing knowledge of firearms understands, a “silencer” or more accurately a “sound suppressor” affixed to the barrel of a handgun or rifle lessens but does not come even close to deadening the report from the firing of a gun.
Furthermore, proposing a ban on magazines of a certain capacity — which always is among the “solutions” for which the gun-control movement clamors — has been regularly shown to have no real effect on a person armed with a gun and intent on murder.
Not surprisingly, Northam included banning “assault weapons” and “bump stocks” among his proposals. Apparently missed by Northam were the facts that bumps stocks already are banned under federal law, and that Craddock did not use a rifle, much less an “assault rifle” to carry out his murders. As any gun-control advocate worth the title knows, it is not the substance of such government actions that carries the day, but the language of the proposals. And there are few phrases better primed to win votes restricting Second Amendment rights than “assault weapons,” “high capacity magazines,” or “silencers.”
Strangely, however, the governor included in his gun-control laundry list, measures “allowing localities to ban guns from municipal buildings.” This is odd because municipal officials in every one of the 50 states and the District of Columbia already are able to install metal detectors designed precisely to detect and prevent firearms from being brought into government buildings.
Perhaps the governor was not aware of this fact at the time of his news conference, but such measures already were widely in use at government facilities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. One wonders if the officials in Virginia Beach who had decided such devices were not needed at the municipal buildings in their jurisdiction, will be questioned about or disciplined for their decisions.
Northam’s proposed list included other, similarly ineffective measures, and it might very well be lengthened as he and his advisors have more time to consider the matter, and to be swayed by anti-firearms organizations and individuals like Michael Bloomberg’s “Everytown for Gun Safety.”
Sadly, however, it is highly unlikely Northam will instead turn his support to measures that actually and meaningfully could aid in dealing with deep-rooted social problems and deficiencies that are birthing an increasing number of persons bent on committing mass murder.
If Northam and his colleagues truly were serious about improving the ability of law enforcement officials and health care professionals to deal with mental health issues that increasingly appear to be among the factors giving rise to mass shootings, they would increase funding for and access to mental health facilities in Virginia; Currently, the state ranks 42nd in terms of access to mental health care.
Bob Barr (@BobBarr) represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He currently serves as president and CEO of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation.