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Virginia Gun Bill Shootdowns Shows Little Learned From Virginia Tech

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By Robert Weiner and Hannah Coombs
March 1, 2015
Originally Published in The Roanoke Times

In a state that witnessed one of the largest massacres in the country only eight years ago, Virginia Republicans in the legislature are now blocking all gun control regulation -- and instead are passing legislation that may actually weaken defenses against massacres.

They are showing a disregard for the 107 school shootings that have occurred nationwide just since Newtown, two years ago. Prevention was inadequate for Newtown (26 dead) in December 2012, Virginia Tech (32 dead) in 2007, and Columbine (15 dead) in 1999.

We remain at risk for the next mass shooting .".". and the next. We are paralyzed by self-inflicted wounds.

It starts with interpretation. The Second Amendment has a rarely referred to modifier, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state..." Gun supporters and the media solely quote the follow-on clause, "the right to bear arms," as an individual entitlement of weapon possession. But unless someone is part of the National Guard, the military or regulated law enforcement, the Second Amendment gives no blanket right to a gun. Limitations are justified.

Last month there was a ricochet of gun legislation in Virginia as votes and re-votes were held on proposals from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, which legislators ultimately rejected. Despite polls showing Virginians in favor of stronger firearm restrictions, Republican bills went the opposite way, moving through committee permission for guns on school property and letting people with concealed weapons buy lifetime permits instead of requiring five-year renewals with background checks.

Without adequate legislation, events like the Virginia Tech shooting will continue to take place in large numbers in Virginia and all across the U.S., in contrast to the rest of the Western world. Compare the 30,470 U.S. gun deaths (including suicide) in 2010 to 903 in Germany, 1,864 in France and 155 in the U.K.

People do not buy firearms without seeing themselves using them. It is time that the number of deaths has the opportunity to subside. The Brady Bill's background checks, signed by President Clinton in 1994, blocked 2.1 million gun purchases by 2010, including 1 million attempts by felons, and more than 100,000 by straw-purchasers (third party buyers).

In addition, Congress allowed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, another Clinton achievement, to expire in 2004. Mass shootings (defined by the FBI as four or more killed) have tripled since 2011 with a frequency of one massacre occurring every 64 days, according to a 2012 Mother Jones mass shootings study. Since the Assault Weapon Ban expired, the average number of assault-weapons massacres per year more than doubled. We are going in exactly the wrong direction

Common-sense restrictions proposed by McAuliffe and Del. Kathleen Murphy, D-Fairfax, would have kept guns away from perpetrators of domestic violence, reinstated a one-gun a month purchase limit, and closed the gun show loophole.

Other proposals rejected would have prohibited gun sales to individuals with violent histories and guardians negligent enough to allow their 4-year-old (or younger) to handle a firearm.

A 2013 CBS News/New York Times poll showed that 93 percent of gun-owning households support universal background checks for purchases, including 84 percent of households with an NRA member.

The Charlton Heston-Wayne LaPierre NRA leadership extreme positions do not represent most NRA members. (Remember Heston brandishing his rifle saying, "from my cold, dead hands?") At what point will responsible gun owners prevent the irresponsible ones from abusing the privilege of ownership?

Gun advocates at the NRA argue gun restrictions are unnecessary since crime is down. In reality, the decline correlates with a 70 percent drop in crack cocaine over three decades, which can be attributed to strong drug enforcement.

Last month, the NRA claimed that "the nation's murder rate has fallen to what may be an all-time low," but a death count over 30,000 is by no means low.

America seems to consider gun murders simply the price of doing business, collateral damage. Because of the nonstop pro-gun lobbying, the media and public now care more about acting on hostages killed abroad than the sons and daughters of neighbors murdered at home. Shootings in the U.S. are routine in the news, and coverage ends after a single day.

Gun advocates' shoot-down of legislation continues the protection of gun possession and disregards the high firearm death-count in America. How many more massacres can our country withstand? Will we stop the next mass shooting .".". and the next?

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