- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2007

About those guns. A month after a deranged college student killed 32 fellow students and faculty, wounded 17 and killed himself at Virginia Tech, the Virginia Citizens Defense League was scheduled to hold the “Bloomberg Gun Giveaway” in a government office building that houses a Fairfax County police station similar to the one where another deranged young gunman killed two upstanding officers a year earlier.

The giveaway is a reaction to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s gun “stings” conducted outside his city, including six in Virginia. He says his agents have traced 800 guns sold in those locations to crimes committed in the Big Apple.

The defense league is attempting to raise money for legal fees for the owners of Bob Moates Sport Shop in Richmond and Old Dominion Gun and Tackle in Danville.

“If the drawing were for anything other than a firearm, this would have been a nonissue,” VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said.

Duh? After Fairfax County officials said the gun raffle was illegal, the pro-gun group that is even more extreme than the National Rifle Association decided to award the weapons as door prizes to anyone who came to their meeting last night.

The intent and the timing of this political stunt could be no worse.

On Mother’s Day, 32 Maryland women, following their Virginia counterparts, held a short “lie-in/die-in” in memory of the 32 victims of the Virginia Tech shooter. They called for more stringent gun laws nationwide.

At George Mason University this week, the newly formed Students for Concealed Carry aided and abetted by the same group that organized the weapons giveaway, asked that the prohibition of guns at the Fairfax campus be lifted.

In the District, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has finally been shot by an issue for which he does not have a quick-draw response. He must decide whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the city’s stringent handgun ban — struck down by two federal court panels — or rewrite the law to allow D.C. homeowners the right to bear arms behind their bolted doors.

Debating gun control is as about as much fun as putting your hand in a hornets’ nest. And it is not surprising that people, who have become increasingly frustrated by the inability of law enforcement to curb violent crime, are more willing to arm themselves in hopes of defending themselves.

At the heart of the gun-control issue is fear, especially the fear of a violent death. One side fears that they can’t buy enough guns to shoot enough animals, human or otherwise, that might be a danger should they cross paths, intentionally or otherwise. The other side simply fears that too many guns in our midst lead only to more senseless crimes.

Each side can present the requisite statistics, studies and talking points to stage a good old-fashioned duel at dawn. Neither wants compromise.

In the meantime, we should all agree that enforcing the laws already on the books is paramount. Making sure those guns, especially the semi-automatic type that can mow down a building full of bright minds in less than 10 minutes, cannot get in the hands of the wrong people.

It is still too easy to get a firearm, especially in the Old Dominion, an asylum for gun lovers of every stripe. Purchasing a firearm should be as hard as getting a driver’s license, a building permit, or credit to buy a house or car. Whatever happened to the legislation to implement a uniform three-day waiting period before purchase?

In Virginia, you can buy a weapon of mass destruction at a private gun show without a background check. No permit is needed for anyone 18 or older to carry an open weapon. And the conservative General Assembly will not allow localities to prohibit people from carrying guns in government buildings.

Just this spring, the assembly passed legislation, signed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, that makes it harder for other jurisdictions to carry out stings at gun shops where lots of weapons used in crimes have been traced.

Even the governor has called the giveaway a sign of “poor judgment,” and he wonders what makes members of the citizens league “tick.”

By the way, the original date for the “Bloomberg Gun Giveaway” was April 19, three days after the Virginia Tech shootings.

What is most troubling about this outrageous event is the amount of time, energy and debate placed into the “protection” of Virginia’s gun owners and dealers. There should be much more emphasis on the enforcement of Virginia’s already-lax gun laws.

Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, issued a warning to Mr. Bloomberg, also a Republican, to cease the stings — there have been 27 so far.

Mr. Bloomberg fired back. “We wish that the attorney general would put as much time into enforcing the laws already on the books as he does on issuing press releases and engaging in needless turf battles,” his spokesman, Jason Post, said.

The War of the States redux?

After more than two centuries in our nation’s history, we are still at war over whether the constitutional right to bear arms applies to state militias or individuals. It likely will be another 200 years before there is a definitive answer about those guns.

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