Last week, an observant reader hastened to inform us the date Gov. Northam selected to convene a special General Assembly on guns is also the anniversary of the approval of 14th Amendment, which extended the rights and privileges of citizenship to African Americans. Of course, part and parcel of this expansion is protection under the Bill of Rights from infringement and even depredation of guarantees — unalienable rights not bestowed by government but granted as a human condition from on high. Which, when last we checked, also included the Second Amendment.
As much as anyone else, we decry the prevalence of mass shootings in the United States, the most recent taking place two weeks ago in Virginia Beach, in which a municipal employee walked into a city building and killed 12 people. But we question as well the knee-jerk reaction of politicians who trot out the same old nostrums in hopes of eliminating a problem that cuts deep to man’s soul and has done so, to greater or lesser extent, from time immemorial. Their perennial thought: If only we had universal background checks, then our worries would be over.
But never is it that easy, or so cut-and-dried. Mainly because there are so many gun laws that a straightforward approach, faithful to the intent of the Second Amendment, is decidedly elusive. As such, we see the gun-controllers, in whose ranks Mr. Northam now marches, fall back on perennials no longer hardy but rather the consistency and durability of moldy chestnuts. Universal background checks, for example. We’ve heard ad nauseam that this remedy will prevent the sort of mayhem that transpired at Virginia Beach. But the guilty party purchased the two guns he used three years and one year ago, respectively — and legally.
Mr. Northam also wants to ban assault weapons, a description that runs the gamut from machine guns to rocket launchers to high-powered hunting rifles.Where will that line be drawn? This is not to say some action should not be taken. Just as President Trump moved against the bump stocks used in the Las Vegas concert shootings, the General Assembly can take action against the silencer employed by the Virginia Beach killer. We see no reason for an American defending him- or herself requiring a silencer to do so.
Still, on many issues, Mr. Northam slouches toward anti-Second Amendment extremism. For instance, he favors a “red flag” law giving authorities power to seize weapons from any and all deemed a threat to society or to themselves. States currently do have laws to restrict ownership of guns by, for instance, these very people considered dangerous, a threat. How would Mr. Northam further bolster that law without giving authorities too much muscle to take gun rights away from law-abiding people? We’re angling toward a slippery slope here.
Mr. Northam also wants to reinstate the limit of one gun purchase a month. More than anything else as we see it, this would restrict the activities of private gun dealers, collectors, and fanciers who purchase and sell in volume.
On the other side of the aisle, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox will propose ways to tighten penalties for those who violate gun laws. In particular, Mr. Cox would push for mandatory minimum sentences for certain firearm violations. Mr. Northam opposes this gesture because he believes mandatory minimums disproportionately affect African Americans and other minorities. Not if they are levied consistently, uniformly.
Sounds like Mr. Northam is still making amends for the blackface/Klan photo on his graduation page in his medical school yearbook, doesn’t it?