Monday, April 16, 2007

Here Come The Gun Banners

--by Tom Gresham, host of Gun Talk
"April 16, 2007, just might be a turning point in the battle to restore gun rights to Americans. The tragedy at Virginia Tech today, with more than 30 people being killed in a premeditated murder spree, will be the fulcrum upon which the anti-gun rights forces leverage their efforts to restrict (destroy, if possible) your right to not only own guns, but to protect yourself and your family.

Quite simply, this is the mass shooting the anti-self defense forces have been waiting for, as we will see over the coming days and weeks. The papers are already drawn up; the proposed restrictions were penned long ago; they have merely been waiting for this moment.

Lost in the coming cacophony will be the utter failure of the "perfect" gun law -- a total gun ban. You see, on that university campus, no one is allowed to have a gun for self protection in dorms or classrooms. It is the latest in a long string of murderous failures of "gun free" zones, or as they are better called, "victim-rich environments."

According to the school's "Campus and Workplace Violence Prevention Policy":

"The university's employees, students, and volunteers, or any visitor or other third party attending a sporting, entertainment, or educational event, or visiting an academic or administrative office building or residence hall, are further prohibited from carrying, maintaining, or storing a firearm or weapon on any university facility, even if the owner has a valid permit, when it is not required by the individual's job, or in accordance with the relevant University Student Life Policies.

Any such individual who is reported or discovered to possess a firearm or weapon on university property will be asked to remove it immediately. Failure to comply may result in a student judicial referral and/or arrest, or an employee disciplinary action and/or arrest."
(Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Policy 5616, Campus and Workplace Violence Prevention Policy,

A similar situation to the one that happened at Virginia Tech occurred on January 16th, 2002 at Appalachian Law School in Grundy, Virginia. A disgruntled former student began a similar shooting spree. The difference in this case was that the attack was stopped by three individuals, two of whom were legally armed with handguns. Unfortunately, the attack was not stopped until three people had been killed and three more wounded. Why did it take so long to stop the attack? The good guys had to retrieve their guns from their parked cars before they could confront the gunman. ALS was a gun-free zone, you know.

Barely more than a year ago House Bill 1572 couldn't even make it out of committee in the Virginia General Assembly. The bill would have made it legal for students and staff at Virginia universities to have guns for their own protection. Today's shooter did not wait for such a law, and took advantage of the government-mandated victim-state.

When House Bill 1572 was defeated, state newspapers reported: "Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker was happy to hear the bill was defeated. 'I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus.'"

Once again, the desire to "feel safe" prompts decisions which actually make people less safe.

What does it mean to America's gun owners? It certainly sounds the battle cry for those who enacted, then lost, the ability to ban full-capacity magazines for defensive firearms. Expect a quick call for limiting magazine capacity--and thus, the ability to fully protect yourself and your family. There may well be calls for the banning of all autoloading (semi-automatic) firearms, even though those have been in use for more than 100 years.

Fortunately, the political landscape is much different than it was when the Brady Bill and the Clinton Gun Ban were passed in the early 1990s. Those acts helped pull together a fragmented firearms industry which, until then, had kept out of politics, leaving that to the NRA. The firearms industry now understands the threat, as do individual gun owners who use guns for recreation, but especially for self-protection. Passage of the so-called "assault weapon" ban resulted in the Republican Party taking control of Congress, according to President Bill Clinton. The gun issue is largely credited with keeping a Republican in the White House since then. Elected officials of all stripes know that any proposal to infringe on gun rights is a third rail, capable of cutting short almost any political career.

Certainly, some closet gun banners will be emboldened by this tragedy and will come forward, counting on a groundswell of public outrage to carry the day for repressive gun control laws, much as it did in England and Australia after those countries experienced similar shootings. The disturbing fact that the violent crime rate skyrocketed in both countries following the confiscation of guns from honest people will not quell the zeal of those who dream of a country where the criminals are free to prey on the defenseless.

They long for the day when they can bring the failed experiment of "gun free" zones to every town, neighborhood, and home in America.

Until Monday, April 16, it was thought that gun control would be an issue politicians would try to duck over the next 18 months. That may have changed. What has not changed, though, is the awareness of the American public that they need firearms for personal protection. The vivid images of helpless people during Hurricane Katrina being victimized by thugs, with no police to help, crystallized the understanding that each of us is responsible for our own safety,. Today, we all know we can certainly take advantage of help from official sources, but we also are clear that we should never give up our ability to help ourselves.

Today's shootings are terrible. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. We don't want to inject politics into this, but to ignore this is to pretend the sun doesn't rise each day. The assault on our rights surely will come.

Whether we gun owners get swept away by a tsunami of gun restrictions, or swim to the top with logic and organized persuasion depends, I think, on the intensity and the quality of our reaction. One thing is for sure. This is the fight which will determine the future of gun rights, the firearms industry, our ability to protect our families, and the strength of our Constitutional protections."