Repeal of gun law is fatal mistake
Recently, two different moms in two different parts of the country confronted the state of American politics head on. Speaking to a group at Southern Methodist University, former First Lady Barbara Bush commented on how nasty politics has become, saying, “I hate that people think ‘compromise’ is a dirty word.”
The week before, a group of parents of Virginia Tech University shooting victims, including mom Lori Haas, confronted Gov. Bob McDonnell, and asked him why he planned to repeal a long-standing law that limited handgun purchases. As it turns out, Haas’s question was pretty much answered by Bush.
Back in 1991, the ATF reported that Virginia was the No. 1 source state for handguns used in commission of crimes. For example, 40 percent of guns found at New York City crime scenes came from the Old Dominion. Even worse, criminals were buying handguns in bulk at Virginia stores, then trading them for illegal drugs up north. That’s when Doug Wilder sprung into action. Wilder, the nation’s first elected African-American governor, was a liberal, gun-owning, tough-on-crime chief executive who had been awarded a Bronze Star for singlehandedly capturing an enemy platoon in Korea. Wilder knew something about how to stop violence, so he proposed a bill that would limit the purchase of handguns to one per month. After some arm-twisting and an ad campaign to combat NRA propaganda, Wilder’s bill passed. The year was 1992, a time when Republicans and Democrats could actually work together for the common good. The new law had an immediate effect on reducing crime, saving countless lives in the process. That was then, and this is now.
Last week, Gov. McDonnell and his tea party legislature repealed the One Gun A Month law despite protests from parents throughout the state. “The Republicans should never be forgiven for the lockstep mentality to which they engaged on this,” Wilder told me in an exclusive interview. “Sixty-seven percent of the people of Virginia say they still want the One Gun a Month bill, which means that the actions of the governor and the legislature were contrary to what the people wanted. This is one of the reasons that people are becoming disenchanted with government because they feel nobody really gives a damn about them.”
McDonnell said that Wilder’s law violate d the Second Amendment, which is a lie. Twenty years ago, that kind of misinformation was quickly dismissed, but not today. As comedian Bill Maher says, right-wing extremists live in a bubble where accurate information cannot get in, nor can lessons on cause and effect. As soon as the repeal was announced, bulk gun buyers came out of the woodwork. “[A]t one of the stores here, people were lined up buying as many guns as they could, and police had to be out there directing traffic,” Wilder said.
In the good, old days of reason, Wilder could shame his opponents into submission, saying things like, “Who needs to buy more than 12 guns in one year?” That shot down (pardon the expression) arguments by pandering politicians who feared the state was trying to prohibit law-abiding citizens from owning guns. During our conversation, Wilder pointed out the absurdity of those fears. “You calculate that the bill has been in effect for about 20 years, so let’s say a man and his wife have each bought one gun per month during that time. Today they would own 480 guns between them. I’d think they’d have enough guns by now. The repeal is frightening, and it sends a heck of a message to young people: ‘See how many guns you can buy,’ and then we act surprised when students carry guns to school.”
I asked Wilder what he now fears will be the result of Gov. Mc- Donnell’s action. “The result will be more crime, more guns and more drugs. Criminals will be able to carry truckloads of guns up through I-95 as they used to, and exchange them for drugs that will be coming back down here,” said the former governor.
Ever since the rise of the radical right, Democratic candidates and elected officials throughout the nation have grown weaker and less effective. They’ve stood by, helpless to act against sophomoric, discriminatory and dangerous policy initiatives. What we need now is a crop of no-nonsense liberals who can get tough with tea-party bullies like Speaker John Boehner, and power-grabbing cry babies like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. We need Democrats who can burst the bubbles of ignorance, and teach us all how to compromise from a position of strength. We need statesmen who can kick ass when it’s needed. We need guys with bronze stars and brass balls.
Mr. Wilder, the cloning lab just called. They need a sample of your DNA.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15)