The political battle over gun rights versus gun control is waging hot and heavy in the Virginia legislature. Democrats are pushing for more gun control laws and Republicans are pushing to preserve gun rights.
Virginia is the historical home to one of America’s most pro-gun rights presidents, Thomas Jefferson. When Thomas Jefferson penned the draft of the Virginia Constitution in 1776, he included the words:
“No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms (within his own lands or tenements).” [Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution (with his note added), 1776. Papers 1:353.]
In 1808, Jefferson wrote:
“I learn with great concern that [one] portion of our frontier so interesting, so important, and so exposed, should be so entirely unprovided with common fire-arms. I did not suppose any part of the United States so destitute of what is considered as among the first necessaries of a farm-house.” [Thomas Jefferson Letter to Jacob J. Brown, 1808. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition (ME), Lipscomb and Bergh, editors, 20 Vols., Washington, D.C., 1903-04, 11:432.
In 1824, just two years before his death, Jefferson penned a letter to John Cartwright in which he wrote:
“The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that… it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.” [Thomas Jefferson letter to John Cartwright, 1824. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition (ME), Lipscomb and Bergh, editors, 20 Vols., Washington, D.C., 1903-04, 16:45.]
It’s ironic that so many historians refer to Jefferson as being a liberal politician and yet when it came to the Second Amendment rights to own and bear a firearm, Jefferson was ultra conservative and believed that everyone and every household needed to be armed to protect themselves, their families and their homes.
However, Virginia’s Democrats have forgotten or choose to ignore the views of their so-called historical liberal. Commonwealth Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D)recently announced that legal conceal carry permits from other states would no longer be recognized in Virginia.
Then as the legislature starts their 60-day session, several of the Democratic senators wasted no time introducing a number of gun control bills.
Senator George L. Barker (D-Fairfax) introduced a bill that would give authorities the right to confiscate guns from anyone that a Circuit Court judge deemed to be a ‘substantial risk’ to themselves or others. Such a designation would allow law enforcement to enter and search the person’s house based on the subjective opinion of a judge.
Sen. Richard H. Stuart (R-Stafford) argued that it wasn’t right to allow peoples’ home to be arbitrarily searched because someone questioned if they were mentally ok or not. He argued:
“Doesn’t it bother you that a person’s residence could be searched?”
“If we have the ability to get someone help that needs help, why do we need to search their home?”
Senator David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax) and another state senator introduced two bills that would place bans on allowing children as young as 4 years of age from using any form of firearm which included real guns, pneumatic guns and even BB guns.
One Virginia resident, Bill Heipp told the committee:
“None of my kids are afraid of guns. A lot of that is because they were introduced in a safe environment, at an early age, and given good coaching by a concerned parent. This bill would stuff all that.”
I would echo Heipp’s testimony. My dad started teaching me how to shoot a .22 caliber rifle when I was 4 years old and I’ve been shooting and hunting ever since. He would allow me to rest the front stock in his hand as I aimed and fired. He taught me to respect all guns and he made sure that my brothers and sister knew where every loaded gun was in the house. We knew not to play with or handle the guns without permission because that’s the way we were taught.
Personally, I strongly believe that the issue isn’t guns but one of parenting or the lack of it. If parents just took the time to teach their kids respect for guns, property and other people the way I was taught, there would be a lot less violence in America.
Senator L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) introduced a bill requiring background checks for everyone purchasing a firearm at a gun show.
Other gun control bills introduced by Democrats includes one to require conceal carry applicants to exhibit they are able to competently handle their handgun first. Another proposed bill would ban the current open carry of a loaded gun in allowable public locations.
These gun control bills along with a slew of others went to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee where they were quickly defeated by the Republican majority. Instead of approving the stack of gun control bills, the committee did approve a number of pro-gun rights bills.
Senator Richard H Black (R-Loudoun) got his bill to allow conceal carry of firearms without the need of a permit passed by the committee. Supporters of this bill refer to it as ‘constitutional carry’ instead of conceal carry. Black defended his bill, saying:
“It’s based on the idea that the Second Amendment is a constitutional right and that citizens have a right to carry firearms without permission of the government. It’s analogous to the First Amendment, where you don’t need a government permit to tell you what you can say and what you can’t.”
Sadly, Black’s comparison with free speech under the First Amendment may not be the example he meant it to be. We are seeing conservatives and Christians having their First Amendments rights of free speech revoked. Pro-lifers are banned from speaking against in public near abortion clinics. Christians were banned from sharing the Gospel on public property outside a Muslim festival in Dearborn, Michigan. Christian business owners are being sued and put out of business because they defend their faith to homosexuals. Students are being disciplined for quoting Scripture that condemns homosexuality or Islam while at the same time it’s extremely rare for a student to be disciplined for blaspheming God, Jesus and Holy Spirit.
Another bill to pass the committee would give judges the right to carry concealed weapons and another one that would give retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed guns in airports and schools providing they complete annual training and qualification.
The battle to get the pro-gun legislation could be a tough fight. Currently, senate consists of 21 Republicans to 19 Democrats. All of the voting in the committee went along party lines except for 1 Democrat, Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County) who voted several times in favor of the pro-gun rights bills. If the bills manage to pass the senate, officially known as the House of Burgesses, they will probably sail through the House of Delegates where Republicans hold a 66-34 lead over the Democrats.
However, it is likely that none of the pro-gun rights bills will ever become law as Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe, is a staunch Democrat, once serving at the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, co-chairman of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. I seriously doubt if McAuliffe would be willing to sign any form of legislation that promotes the Second Amendment rights of Virginia’s citizens as it would be tantamount to treason to the Democratic Party.
Even though Republicans have enough votes in the House of Delegates to override a veto, there are not enough votes in the senate. Kind of reminds you of the way things are in Washington DC.