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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Virginia's Struggle Over Gun Laws

The Washington Post has this article that is as much a profile of pro-rights Delegate Todd Gilbert (and to a lesser extent gun ban lobbyist Andrew Goddard) as it is a report on how pro-rights bills have fared much better than anti-rights bills since the Virginia Tech shooting seven years ago.
After the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, horror and outrage prompted lawmakers in Connecticut, Maryland, New York and a handful of other states to implement tough new gun restrictions. But since its own tragedy seven years ago at Virginia Tech, the commonwealth has gone in the other direction. Over the six full legislative sessions since Seung Hui Cho’s rampage left 32 dead, it is gun rights, not gun restrictions, that have grown stronger. 
Gilbert, a former Shenandoah Valley prosecutor and the deputy majority leader in Virginia’s House of Delegates, is a big reason why.
Delegate Gilbert approaches the issue from the perspective of a former prosecutor who believes you take the guns out of the hands of the bad guys and keep them in the hands of the law abiding.
“All the members of this place try to oversimplify everything all the time. I know it’s a complicated issue,” Gilbert said. “But I’ve just never seen how disarming law-abiding people made anybody safer.”
The Post also touched on an issue that seems to be a favorite of those reporting on Virginia gun laws, and at the same time misreported - online safety courses that qualify applicants for concealed handgun permits (CHPs).
“I think I’ve said this every year since I’ve been here,” Goddard began. “I got a permit. I shouldn’t have a permit. I’ve never held a handgun. I should have had training. I went online and answered some questions that I could have answered if I hadn’t watched the silly little movie in advance. I shouldn’t be allowed to have a permit to carry a handgun in public until I know how to handle it and know about the laws.”
The Post refers to the online course under the requirement that the applicant has a "demonstrated competence with a handgun" from the CHP statute without also listing all of the different courses that qualify. There is no range time requirement in the Code and some of the examples given as acceptable courses do not include instruction on a handgun.  It has been a long time since I took a hunter safety course (which is one of the acceptable courses listed in the Code) but I did not have any handgun instruction in that course.  What no one in the media seems to understand is that Virginia's requirement is a basic safety course.  Anyone serious about carrying concealed should (and likely does) take a lot of different training that includes subjects like situational awareness, drawing a firearm in various senarios, just to name a couple. But to qualify for the permit, you simply have to take a basic firearm safety course.  But Gilbert makes an excellent point:
“While this is couched as a reasonable extension of public policy, it really just nibbles away at that basic proposition that we shouldn’t have to go get the government’s permission to go protect ourselves and our families as we see fit,” Gilbert said. “Free citizens, acting as Mr. Goddard does, will choose to carry a firearm or not carry a firearm. Criminals will choose to do it or not do it — without regard for any of these laws.”
The article ends with a discussion of how we may be entering a period of a stalemate as the Governor's office and the State Senate are now controlled by the Democrats.  If this session is an indication, the Post may be right on that point.

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