Virginia has among the most lenient gun laws in the country. There are no requirements for licensing or training, and if one buys a weapon at gun show, there is no background check or waiting period. If a person completes a background check, Virginia law requires that a concealed carry permit be issued to anyone who applies. (Virginia does not allow guns to be carried on school campuses.)
Contrary to what most people are told, the U.S. Constitution doesn't give everyone the right to own a gun. The Second Amendment conveys the right "to keep and bear arms" for the purposes of maintaining a well-regulated militia. This was written in the days before there were federal armed forces, state police, local police and so forth. In the absence of a need for a militia made up of citizens, there is no right to own a gun.
That realization is anathema to gun owners and members of the National Rifle Association, the premier special interest group in the nation, which has fought all reasonable attempts at gun control. Nothing less than completely un-regulated gun ownership will satisfy the extremists at the NRA, which is among the richest and most powerful of all lobbying groups and which can strike fear in politicians seeking to win elections. During the news broadcasts of the events yesterday, Fox News host John Gibson gave the right-wing party line: If other students or faculty had been armed, they could have defended themselves and others. It seems, to gun advocates, that the answer to violence is more violence. Preventing violence has never occurred to them. Of course, the NRA is also supported by corporations that make and sell weapons, so there is an inherent conflict of interest and a self-serving nature of their position.
Not all politicians cower to the gun lobby: Barack Obama has gone on record before this latest incident, saying the sale or transfer of all forms of semi-automatic weapons should be banned, state restrictions on the purchase and possession of firearms should be increased, and manufacturers should be required to provide child-safety locks with firearms. He also supports lawsuits against gun manufacturers.
John Edwards has said in the past he supports closing the gun-show loophole and preventing convicted criminals of owning guns. Edwards has also said, however, that gun ownership is about "independence," and he supports the right to own them. He nevertheless said he supports lawsuits that would hold gun manufacturers accountable. Hillary Clinton has advocated registering and licensing all handgun sales, and has said "there are too many guns and too many children have access." In the Senate, Clinton voted against the bill that would have granted the gun industry immunity from lawsuits.
Rudy Giuliani has said that "just as a motorist must have a license, a gun owner should be required to have one as well. Anyone wanting to own a gun should have to pass a written exam that shows that they know how to use a gun, that they’re intelligent enough and responsible enough to handle a gun." John McCain, who has said in the past that he favors safety locks on guns, voted against gun control legislation in the Senate. McCain voted against the assault weapons ban of 1994 (which President Bush allowed to expire in 2004) and also voted against the Brady Bill, which would have required a five-day waiting period for gun buyers.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney said in the past he supported the assault weapons ban and the Brady Bill, but lately - as he courts Republican voters - he has shied away from being a strong gun-control advocate and instead, his campaign describes him as someone who has worked to ease gun-control laws.
The NRA and people who support unrestricted gun laws foster a culture of violence. Indeed, the notion that everyone should be armed encourages it. There is another way, led by people who believe a more peaceful existence is possible. It starts with legitimate, strong gun control legislation, and with efforts like the one by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to hold gun manufacturers accountable.
But as long as the likes of the Bush Administration is in charge, none of this will come to pass. The Bush Administration, along with the gun lobby and its allies in Congress, suppressed crime gun trace data, exposing the complicity of gun dealers in supplying the illegal gun market in order to aid gun makers in civil court cases and shield the industry from negative public attention.
Despite the fact that polls find gun control has strong support from Americans, there is unlikely to be any changes in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. That's because Democrats - and Bill Clinton - believe the passage of the Brady Bill in 1993 and the assault weapons ban in 1994 led to the defeat of the Democrats in the 1994 Congressional elections, due to the intense lobbying of the NRA. Al Gore's failure to win states in the south in 2000 is also blamed on the NRA, to some degree, and their mischaracterization of his position. The NRA did the same thing to John Kerry in 2004. It matters little that gun control has broad public support, or that most law-enforcement agencies around the country support it, since the NRA's scare tactics have made the issue toxic for politicians.
As a general rule, however, no politician who takes money from the gun manufacturers or has support of the NRA can be taken seriously on gun control. Eight years after the shootings at Columbine, with all the other shootings since - including last year's incident at an Amish school in rural Pennsylvania - the country's lax gun legislation is the same. Families who have suffered losses from these senseless acts of violence deserve better than to see our national well-being held hostage by the likes of the NRA. Again, if now is not the time to talk about these issues, when? If this generation doesn't start to correct the epidemic of gun violence, who will?
More info: A Case For Gun Control