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EDITORIAL: Virginia’s predictable gun control backlash

EDITORIAL: Virginia’s predictable gun control backlash

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ACCORDING to Isaac Newton’s

Third Law of Motion, “for

every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This is also true in politics, although it sometimes takes a while to identify the opposite reaction, which is often simply referred to as “the backlash.”

If you want a perfect example of a political backlash, look no further than Virginia, where gun control sentiment ran high following the June 2019 massacre of 12 people in Virginia Beach by a disgruntled city worker. Most Democratic candidates running for the General Assembly later that year promised to pass gun-control legislation.

“[Last] November, Virginians called out loud and clear for meaningful legislation to address gun violence in the commonwealth. They demanded action and we delivered,” House Speaker Eileen Filler–Corn said of the gun control bills the General Assembly passed during this year’s regular session, which were signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.

The new laws, intended to make it more difficult to obtain and possess firearms, require background checks on all gun sales; mandatory reporting of any lost or stolen firearms; “red flag” confiscation; reinstatement of the one-handgun-per-month rule; and increased penalties for leaving a firearm in the presence of a child.

It didn’t take long for the reaction. As early as May of this year—even before the new laws went into effect—the FBI was already reporting that background check requests in Virginia were up a whopping 77 percent over the same period last year.

Michael Matthews, manager of the Virginia State Police’s Firearms Transaction Center, told The Free Lance–Star that 587,107 background checks were conducted in just the first nine months of 2020. “This is more than our previous highest year, which was 2016, with 505,722 transactions for the entire year,” he noted.

The General Assembly’s action would have been considered a rousing success if the goal was to increase, rather than decrease, the number of firearms in the commonwealth. But since there are now more than a half million more of these weapons in Virginia than there were before the Democrats’ highly-touted gun control bills passed, one can only conclude that the effort was a total flop.

Who would have guessed that Democrats in Richmond would be better at increasing gun sales in Virginia to record levels than the NRA?

The gun control backlash is not only happening in Virginia. The Sacramento Bee reports that an estimated 2.1 million more guns were purchased nationwide during the first three months of the pandemic, including 110,000 in California—which has some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country. Forty percent were first-time guy buyers.

Researchers at UC Davis found that 76 percent of gun buyers cited increasing lawlessness as their main reason for purchasing a weapon, with 56 percent of respondents adding that they were arming themselves due to that state’s early release of prisoners due to COVID-19 concerns.

Sound familiar?

It seems that the more confidence Americans have that their government is maintaining law and order, the less need they feel to defend themselves.

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Following the 2017 “blue wave” elections that saw Democrats win majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, and the fact that the GOP has not won a statewide race since 2009, many pundits declared that Virginia was now a blue state and that Republicans were destined to remain a minority party. But as Mark Twain might have said, “rumors of [Republicans’] demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

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