EDITORIAL: Anti-reason on guns

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When Tim Kaine campaigned for Virginia governor in 2005, he ran an ad implying that former National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston was praising him. His campaign claimed that “Tim Kaine strongly supports the Second Amendment.” Once he won office, Mr. Kaine vetoed one gun bill after another that would have helped Virginians protect themselves from criminals.

Unfortunately, this past week, Mr. “strong Second Amendment supporter” Kaine vetoed all five pro-self-defense bills sent to his desk. His intransigence endangers public safety. Hopefully, the General Assembly’s veto-override session, which starts today, can correct those mistakes.

All five vetoed bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support - indeed, all but one bill got at least two-thirds support in both the Senate and the House. The governor knows he can be easily overriden. Showing how out-of-touch he is on this issue, Mr. Kaine vetoed some bills that even passed unanimously. So overrides seem likely unless Mr. Kaine can flip enough Democrats to sustain his vetoes.

Take Mr. Kaine’s veto of the bill that would let retired law enforcement officers carry their guns in restaurants that serve alcohol. These are retired officers who have served in law enforcement for at least 10 years. They already have been qualified under federal law to carry a concealed firearm, and they would not be allowed to drink alcohol when they are armed. The Democrat-controlled Senate passed the bill unanimously and 85 percent of the Republican-controlled House voted for it.

Yet Mr. Kaine keeps repeating the mindless, inapplicable slogan “Guns and alcohol don’t mix.” More than 30 right-to-carry states around the nation allow law-abiding citizens - not just retired police with 10 years’ experience - to carry permitted concealed handguns in restaurants that serve alcohol. There is no evidence of any problems. Yet when asked, Mr. Kaine’s press office told The Times that “it is irrelevant what is the evidence in any other state. This is Virginia, and that is all the governor cares about.” Despite repeated requests for evidence, none was given. When The Times offered to give the governor’s office more time to find evidence for the Mr. Kaine’s position, the press office said there was “no reason to check” if there was evidence.

This strikes us as a remarkably anti-rational perspective. When people’s safety is on the line, facts should matter. Retired officers are volunteering to protect Virginians for free, essentially serving as undercover officers. But that is not good enough for Mr. Kaine. The governor trusts active-duty officers, but somehow, as soon as they retire - even after years of service - they are no longer trustworthy.

We have a news flash for the governor: Crimes occur in restaurants. Uniformed police are extremely important, but they almost always get to the scene after the crime has been committed. Indeed, as research shows, these gun-free zones actually attract criminal attacks because criminals know they have less to fear from potential victims.

Another problem with banning retired police from carrying their permitted guns in restaurants is that this can prevent them from carrying their guns elsewhere - eviscerating the concealed-handgun law.

Mr. Kaine’s veto of the bill to let law-abiding citizens with concealed-handgun permits in restaurants is just as mistaken. There are obvious benefits from letting people protect themselves and others, and with all the experience from other states, there is no evidence that there are any risks.

Mr. Kaine’s vetoes of the other bills make no more sense. The House unanimously passed a bill that lets concealed-handgun permit holders take their safety course online, and 75 percent of the Senate also voted for the bill. Virginia lets driver-safety courses be taken over the Internet. Even if the governor doesn’t get it yet, the General Assembly at least seems to understand that we live in the age of computers.

Finally, there are no published empirical studies by economists or criminologists showing that one-gun-a-month purchase restrictions reduce any type of violent crime rate. There is no crime reduction in states with the laws or in their neighboring states. We wish Virginia would join the other 47 states without this law, but Mr. Kaine vetoed a bill that affected only active-duty military personnel - allowing them to buy more than one gun. Does Mr. Kaine really have a problem trusting soldiers with guns?

Mr. Kaine is more than just out of step with Virginians on public safety. The governor’s facts-be-damned attitude worries us. Evidence should matter to public servants. We hope the legislators stick to their guns, resist the governor’s pressure and override all five of Mr. Kaine’s vetoes.

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