Gun control in Virginia advances but not far enough

By Bill Brazier:

Virginia Democrats should be proud of the legislation passed to lessen gun violence and control deadly weapons, thanks to new Democratic majorities in the state House and Senate. But the proposed bans on assault weapons and large magazines remain on the agenda for the next session, starting in Jan. 2021, and all reasonable people should fight for their passage.

Thanks to Democratic leadership in the legislature and from Gov. Northam, Virginia now:

    • Requires background checks on all gun sales in the Commonwealth
    • Returns to the extremely reasonable limit of one handgun purchase per month
    • Requires gun owners to be held responsible for who has access to their weapons-keeping them especially from children
    • Prohibits people under a “protective order” from possessing a gun
    • Allows law enforcement to temporarily seize a gun from a person deemed to pose a danger to themselves or others, and
    • Allows localities to set their own rules on the presence of firearms in public.

But as Democrats, and as Virginians, we must stay the course until assault weapons and large magazines are banned – measures that advanced in the House but failed to win passage in the Senate in the last session.

We have often heard from gun activists and Republican officials that any type of restriction on firearms is unconstitutional. This position is extreme, unreasonable, and false.

John Locke, the Enlightenment philosopher who helped frame the ideas for our government, wrote that “Liberty” and “License” are not the same thing. In other words, “Freedom” and “Rights” are never unlimited.

As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes later pointed out, we have “Free Speech” thanks to the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean we have the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. This same principle applies to all of the rights enumerated in the Constitution—even in the Second Amendment.

Consider these points:

      1. In the Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution says: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Notice it says “well-regulated” militia. And it clearly indicates that we want people in the U.S. to have weapons so that they can serve in the militia to defend the “free state.” In no way does this mean that every citizen in the U.S. can purchase as many guns as they want.
      1. Article I, Sect. 8 of the Constitution gives the power to regulate and control the “militia” (yes, it uses that word!) to the U.S. Congress—including the powers to “organize, arm, and discipline” the militia.
      1. The militias of the early years, through the actions of Congress, evolved into each state’s “National Guard.” The National Guard units are under the joint control of the federal government and the state governments wherein they operate. Since Congress has shared control of the National Guard with state governments, then state governments can also regulate their “militias” in a manner consistent with the Constitution.
      1. This must mean that states can, among other things:
        1. Ban military/assault weapons for anyone but militia members
        2. Completely control the supply and purchase of “street” handguns, as these have nothing to do with militia or National Guard service
        3. Require background checks for the purchase of any gun to make sure a purchaser is a member of the “militia”
        4. Control who gets guns—especially if people are under a protective order, and
        5. Require that all purchasers/owners actually keep track of their weapons.

Tell your legislators to support the assault weapons ban and the limit on magazine size. We all owe it to our fellow citizens who suffered such loss in incidents such as the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, the Alexandria Congressional baseball field in 2017, and Virginia Beach in 2019.


Bill Brazier is a former administrator at Loudoun County Public Schools with degrees in political science, international relations, and philosophy. He is a member of Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee and has worked on multiple campaigns for national, state and local candidates 



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