Christensen: Lax gun laws overlook possibilities

By Caitlyn Christensen

Last week, the Senate in my home state of Virginia passed a slew of bills aimed at scaling… Last week, the Senate in my home state of Virginia passed a slew of bills aimed at scaling back the state’s gun laws. The first repeals a one-gun-a-month cap on arms buyers. The second allows those with concealed-carry permits to take their hidden weapons into restaurants and bars that serve alcohol. The Senate also passed a bill allowing guns to be kept in locked glove compartments without a permit.

Even though the laws were instituted in Virginia, other states should take heed. Even in Pennsylvania, the laws for carrying a concealed weapon are relatively lax. The Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association’s website says that while concealed carry permits are not granted to minors, convicted felons or domestic abusers, it is “very simple for trustworthy, law-abiding people to obtain one quickly and cheaply.”

The Association’s wording is naïve, plain and simple. In 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV murdered five Amish students in Lancaster County before turning the gun on himself. Although seemingly a sick individual, Roberts had no record of mental instability. It is unreasonable to assume or expect that everyone interested in carrying a concealed weapon will continue to be a “trustworthy, law-abiding” person after the purchase of his handgun.

The Virginia bills passed in a Democrat-controlled state Senate possibly as part of a backlash against the current presidential administration. The reasoning behind the bills reeks of the kind of paranoia and Second Amendment arrogance that could spread nationally. Republican delegate Bob Marshall said that the repeal of the limit on arms buying is legitimate because, “We shouldn’t get rid of our Second Amendment rights because some people in New York City decide to abuse theirs.”

Guns don’t only go off in New York. Marshall has clearly forgotten that Virginia’s recent history is riddled with gun-related tragedies. During my senior year of high school, I had to wait to hear whether any of my former high school classmates were killed in the Virginia Tech shooting spree, the deadliest peacetime shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history. As well, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo shot 13 people in the D.C. area in 2002. I still remember feeling my heart in my throat every time a white box van drove past.

Republican Senator Emmett Hanger said he supported the measure to allow concealed weapons into bars and restaurants because it meant that law-abiding gun carriers could finally enjoy their favorite restaurants, “such as Red Lobster,” with the security of a firearm by their side. Who is coming after us during Lobsterfest? The shrimp scampi?

Hanger also added that he knew “plenty of women” who already carried handguns in their purses. If these people are already carrying concealed weapons into restaurants, they clearly aren’t law-abiding citizens. Hanger’s implication that the law’s purpose is to help women feel safer in restaurants is packed with machismo condescension. As a woman, I can safely say that I have never felt threatened at a Red Lobster.

The law is supposed to make things safer by stipulating that a person carrying the concealed weapon cannot order alcohol in the restaurant. But how can a bartender tell if grandma’s got a handgun hidden in her purse? By legally endorsing concealed weapons and allowing them to be carried into another public place, it makes it even more socially permissible to own and carry weapons.

The 22 lawmakers responsible for passing the bills would probably argue that the law is for cases of self-defense. But history hasn’t taught us that making firearms readily available makes the public any safer. In the wake of Cho and Malvo, the laws will reinstate Virginia as the East Coast’s top gun-running hub. The bill allowing weapons to be kept in locked glove compartments will open up new problems of unattended guns in vehicles, allowing more guns to fall into the hands of car thieves. Virginia is for lovers and arms traffickers.

The bills’ passage doesn’t make much concrete difference in terms of personal safety. People who feel at liberty to carry concealed weapons will probably take them wherever they want regardless of whether the law is on their side. Evil people who want to kill don’t care whether they can take their gun into a restaurant or not. It would just be nice to know that state legislatures aren’t making it easier for them.

E-mail Caitlyn at [email protected]