- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 16, 2000

As he tries to fend off a powerful challenge from popular former Republican Virginia Gov. George Allen, Sen. Chuck Robb has been tub-thumping in Northern Virginia, darkly warning suburban soccer moms that only a Robb victory can stave off a barrage of dangerous "assault weapons" on Virginia streets.

But Mr. Robb surely knows that crime committed with unwieldy, military-style rifles is almost unheard of. Not one school shooting has involved an automatic weapon; very few crimes of any sort, in fact, involved rifles of any description. Virtually every murder, hold-up, rape, assault, etc., involving a firearm involved a plain old revolver or semiautomatic pistol weapons as far removed from being military-type "assault weapons" as it's possible to get.

The term "assault weapon" is a bogey, a red-herring and Mr. Robb knows it. Mr. Robb also surely knows that even a total ban on the lawful possession of ordinary revolvers and semiautomatic pistols would do nothing about the millions of such guns already in the hands of criminals although such a ban would effectively disarm law-abiding citizens, who have never been the problem when it comes to "gun violence."

Yet Mr. Robb continues to fire away at the "assault weapons" straw man. He notes in sinister tones that his opponent, Mr. Allen, actually voted in favor of a law that allows law-abiding Virginians to carry concealed weapons and also against a law that would have forbidden Virginians to carry firearms into Virginia recreation centers. But as noted by Allen spokesman Tim Murtaugh, "It is already illegal to walk into a rec center and use a gun. The last time I checked, there was an outright ban on murder. Making it more illegal does nothing. Criminals do not obey the law; that's why they are criminals," he told The Washington Post. And as for the concealed-carry law, Mr. Murtaugh noted that not a single crime has been committed by a Virginian with a concealed-carry permit. Not one.

It's unfortunate the Mr. Allen appears to be caving in to the demagogic pressure of Mr. Robb's assault on "assault weapons." If Virginia voters need an issue to help them separate the candidates in their minds, this should be one that could do the trick.

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