The first pieces of Gov. Ralph Northam’s anti-gun agenda are now officially law in Virginia, though several of them are already subject to litigation in state court. As of July 1st, Virginians are subject to things like one-gun-a-month rations on handgun sales (not much of an issue at the moment given the run on firearms taking place across the country), new restrictions on concealed carry licensing, a “Red Flag” firearms seizure law, and so-called universal background checks.

On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we dig into the constitutionality and enforceability of these new laws coming into effect, and how the surge in gun sales and new gun owners might impact Northam’s ability to enact the rest of his anti-gun agenda in the next session of the state legislature. Northam, remember, failed to pass the centerpiece of his gun control package this past session; a sweeping ban on the possession of modern sporting rifles, magazines that can accept more than ten rounds of ammunition, and lawfully owned and acquired suppressors. The governor has vowed to push the ban in the coming months, but with tens of thousands of Virginians estimated to have become a gun owner for the first time in their lives over the past few months, could Northam’s agenda be dead on arrival?

In today’s Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Larry Keane opines that there’s a “gaping disconnect” between the governor’s legislative agenda and the reality of public safety in the state.

His agenda, and that of the Democrats who took control of the state legislature during the last election, has been defined by gun control. This past January, Northam’s administration quickly backed measures such as universal background checks on private sales and passing a “red flag” law lacking meaningful due process, just to name a few. 

Only a month later, and after continual protests from law abiding gun owners at the state capitol, Gov. Northam’s flagship legislation to outlaw commonly owned modern sporting rifles was defeated in a bipartisan manner. In the face of defeat, Northam vowed that “they would be back” and insisted that his sweeping gun control agenda represented “historic steps forward in keeping Virginians safe from gun violence. Make no mistake—they will save lives.”

The only problem is that crime reports from 2019 and many years previous show that the popular rifles Gov. Northam so desperately wants to ban are misused in a minuscule number of crimes. In 2019, rifles of all types were used in less than five percent of murder and manslaughter cases, and in only three percent of aggravated assault cases.

As it turns out, if Northam wants to ban his way to safety, he’s going to have to start at the hardware store, not the gun store.

More surprising still, in all of Virginia’s 2019 murder cases, rifles of any type were misused in a total of 3.4 percent of cases while a “knife or cutting instrument” was used in over 10% of cases. Not only are rifles misused in a fraction of these crimes, but criminal misuse has also decreased significantly since 2017 when murders committed with rifles were “around 400” [that number is nationwide-ed] When examining aggravated assault cases in 2019, rifles were misused in a total of 1 percent of cases while “hands, fists, feet, arms, teeth etc.” were used in 25% of instances, and blunt objects were used 7.8 percent of the time. 

In other words, Virginians face a lethal threat from knives that is three times greater than the one they face from misused rifles of any kind, and the threat of assault involving a hammer or other “blunt object” is 26 times higher.  There are of course no calls to ban knifes and hammers, nor should there be.

Not that Northam and anti-gun advocates are going to let a little thing like data stand in the way of criminalizing the Second Amendment even as they push for things like reducing the penalty for assaulting a police officer from a felony to a misdemeanor. Their agenda is clear, but whether or not its going to be enforced in the dozens of Virginia counties and towns that have declared themselves to be Second Amendment sanctuaries is still very much an open question.