Dear Delegates, Senators Governor Northam (and what the heck, let’s throw Attorney General Mark Herring in too),
This is actually the second version of my letter to you. I had almost finished my first draft when I got word about Del. Mark Levine’s sweeping gun, magazine, and suppressor ban, and I was reminded that, no matter how many olive branches might be extended, as you begin the 2020 legislative session I know that there is little to no hope when it comes to changing your minds about the disastrous course you’re pursuing with your gun control agenda. I also know how little many of you care for the opinion of a Second Amendment supporter and conservative, especially if they’re a 40-something straight white dude with a belly and a beard who lives on a farm in a rural part of the state. However, since I wrote an open letter to Virginia’s Republican lawmakers, it’s only fair that I be non-partisan and pen an open letter to y’all as well.
First of all, I do know that there is some division within your ranks. Not all of you truly believe that we can ban our way to safety. Some of you really do believe you’re just supporting “commonsense” measures that will make Virginia a safer place, while still respecting the rights of Virginians. I think you’re wrong, but I understand where you’re coming from.
There are even be a few of you who know you weren’t elected to pass a bunch of gun control laws and who represent Second Amendment Sanctuary counties. You’re getting 30 or 40 calls telling you to oppose gun control for every call telling you to support Northam’s gun control package, but you don’t want to tick off leadership. Or maybe (hello Del. Carter) you even support the right of the proletariat to be armed for the inevitable revolution, but you’re cool with background checks.
Then there are those of you who really don’t like guns, or most gun owners. You think the Supreme Court got it wrong in Heller, and that the Second Amendment is a dangerous anachronism that needs to be curtailed. You despise the NRA, and you believe the gun lobby is responsible for fomenting the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement that’s swept across the state since the November elections. You believe gun owners and these recalcitrant “sanctuaries” need to be taught a lesson. Your hubris is likely going to lead to disastrous results.
What all of you have in common is that you have the power to stop this. You have the power to focus your attention and efforts on policies that actually and effectively target those who are driving violent crime, instead of focusing on the state’s legal gun owners. You have the opportunity to address the state’s mental health crisis, and not with a red flag law that simply takes people’s guns away. You are in a position to talk to and with gun owners, instead of trying to turn them into felons overnight.
Though we only need a few of you to raise your voices in opposition to this misguided and malicious effort to target legal gun owners, I’m not optimistic that any of you will oblige. But as you tout your support for things like criminal justice reform, ask yourself if your new gun control laws aren’t going to have the same sort of disproportionate impact that the state’s marijuana laws have had?
Before you vote for “universal background checks,” ask yourself why Colorado’s crime rate increased but background checks stayed flat after the state passed their universal background check law, or why Baltimore, Maryland had a record high murder rate with a universal background check law in place. Ask yourself if doing something that works is better than just “doing something.”
Before you vote for a red flag bill, ask yourself why you would allow someone deemed to be a substantial risk to themselves or others with knives, pills, car keys, and gasoline. Ask yourself why you wouldn’t get that person help for their state of mind, instead of simply serving them with a search warrant, seizing any legally owned firearms they might possess, and then leaving them to their own devices. Ask yourself what other constitutional rights can someone be deprived of for weeks at a time before having their day in court. And ask yourself why, if “red flag” laws supposedly reduce suicide, both Indiana and Connecticut saw their suicide rates increased after their red flag laws were put in place.
Before you vote for HB 961,” ask yourself what enforcement of this law is going to look like, given the estimates of nearly 80,000 Virginians who legally possess these firearms, and the hundreds of thousands of Virginians who lawfully possess “large capacity magazines.” As you’re ending the War on Drugs, ask yourself if a War on Guns will be any more successful.
I suspect the vast majority of you won’t do any of that, unfortunately. You’ll pass gun control laws that will be challenged in court, largely ignored in most of the state, and will place thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens in prison for the “crime” of exercising their constitutional rights, a disproportionate number of which will be young men of color. You will be responsible for the biggest deprivation of civil rights in the state since Democrats in the 1950s pushed Massive Resistance to keep Virginia schools segregated.
Even as a growing body of academics are saying that broad gun control bills like the ones you’re pushing aren’t effective in stopping violent crime, I suspect you’re going to blindly follow the lead of gun control activists and campaign cash from anti-gun billionaires like Michael Bloomberg. And when these policies don’t lead to a decrease in violent crime, you’ll say the answer lies in even more restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.
In closing, you’re making a terrible mistake and I pray at least some of you have the courage and the wisdom to take another direction before these bad bills become atrocious laws.