The Editorial Board of The Washington Post must be using a special dictionary. All the dictionarys to which I have access define the term “worked” as succeeded or accomplished, but the WPEB (yes, I’m too lazy to keep writing The Editorial Board of The Washington Post, sue me) headlines their piece on the repeal of Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month-(unless-you-are-a-special-person-) law Repealing A Gun Law that Worked . . .
VIRGINIA ONCE held the dubious distinction of being the top supplier of weapons to gunrunners in the Northeast. In 1991, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) concluded that 40 percent of some 1,200 handguns collected from New York crime scenes had come from Virginia. Guns from the commonwealth were also routinely recovered from crime scenes in the District. One reason for the allure of Virginia’s weaponry: a state law that allowed unlimited purchases of handguns.
That trend reversed after Virginia enacted a one-gun-a-month limit on purchases to address the gunrunning problem in 1993.
But according to their very own reporters, In Study Of Gun Traffic, Va. Stands Out Tuesday, August 21, 2007:
Law enforcement authorities traced more than 10,000 guns recovered in Virginia, Maryland and the District last year — and nearly half came from Virginia, according to federal data released yesterday.
Virginia also was among the top sources of guns recovered by authorities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina, the data show. In New York, more recovered guns came from Virginia than from any other outside state — roughly one of 11 traced.
Report: Virginia’s Lax Gun Laws Supply Criminals Weapons December 10, 2008:
A study obtained by the Washington Post says Virginia’s gun laws are lax, and along with nine other states supply a majority of the weapons used in crimes in other states.
ATF trace data shows a similar pattern; in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 Virginia was the number one out-of-state source for so-called “crime guns.” And according to the Felonious Mayors Against All Illegal Guns website tracetheguns.org, Virginia had the 7th highest rate of “crime gun exports” in 2009. Another of their tables which provides raw numbers rather than rates shows that Virginia was the top 2nd or 3rd “crime gun supplier” for 2006 through 2009 (see figure below).
Now some people might ask (and I’m sure we’ve all heard this one from the antis before), “So because murders still happen, should we repeal laws against killing people now?”
Simply put, the primary purpose of laws against murder, robbery, rape etc. (called mala in se (wrong in and of itself) laws) is not to prevent these acts. Despite what the bumper stickers may say about some people only being alive because it is illegal to kill them, the primary purpose of mala in se laws is to punish bad acts, actions that hurt people.
Laws like one-gun-a-month or magazine capacity limits are what are called mala prohibita (basically, wrong because I say so) laws and these laws are supposed to prevent bad behavior. According to the Brady Bunch in their press release regarding their 2010 State Scorecards:
States can earn up to 35 points by taking steps needed to “Curb Firearms Trafficking.” States can fully regulate gun dealers within their borders, limit bulk purchases of handguns … [emphasis added]
And according to their position statement on limiting bulk sales:
POSITION: The Brady Campaign supports laws limiting the bulk purchase of handguns in order to thwart gun trafficking and help keep guns out of the criminal market.
SOLUTION: …. These “One Handgun A Month” laws do not impact the typical gun owner but do help put gun traffickers out of business and help dry up the supply of illegal guns.
And in their FAQ section on gun trafficking:
Q. Do limits on large-volume gun sales help prevent gun trafficking?
A. Yes. It’s just common sense that if you prevent handguns from being bought in large numbers, it will make it more difficult for traffickers to acquire guns to resell on the streets to criminals.
From The New York Times on 2/4/1993 One Gun Per Month:
Since it wouldn’t pay to travel back and forth for one gun at a time, limiting purchases to one per month could quickly put the smugglers out of business in Virginia.
From Volume XXII of the Fordham University Urban Law Journal, page 434:
In New York City alone, over 40% of the guns used in crime in 1991 had originated in Virginia. In response, then-Governor of Virginia, Douglas Wilder, proposed that the state prohibit the purchase of more than one handgun in a thirty-day period. This proposal, aimed solely at illegal gun trafficking, was opposed adamantly by the gun lobby. [emphasis added]
I think we’ve beaten that dead horse for long enough. But keep in mind, all this information was discovered by one OFWG over the course of two hours in front of a keyboard (with breaks for loading the dishwasher and letting the dogs out). How many editors, assistant editors, reporters, research assistants and interns does the WPEB employ? I was going to ask how many they used, but the answer is pretty clear: not enough.
So I think we can safely say the OGAM law was supposed to stop gun trafficking and, according to the WaPo as well as others, it hasn’t. So what was that headline again? Oh, yeah: Repealing a Gun Law that Worked.
So now that we have analyzed their headline and the first paragraph-and-a-bit, what else do they have to say?
In 1995, a pro-gun lawmaker gave the Virginia State Crime Commission the task of studying the limit’s impact.
The WPEB doesn’t actually name this mysterious legislator, but a little digging discovered his identity. Appendix A of the study is a copy of the letter from Oscar Brinson to Dana Schrad which set up the committee to study the bill. In it Mr. Brinson states that the request came from the Chairman of the House Committee for Courts of Justice, Jim Almand.
Given that information, it was pretty easy for an OFWG to pull up this mini-bio from the House of Delegates website. Scanning down we find that in 1994, Jim received the Advocate of the Year Award from Virginians Against Handgun Violence, Northern Virginia Chapter.
Rooting around the web a little more we find that back in 1997 Virginians Against Handgun Violence (which by this time had renamed themselves the more innocuous Virginia Center For Public Safety, promoting Independence from Gun Violence) did a General Assembly candidate survey.
Scrolling down to District 47 we find that Almand has a voting score of 21 out of 21 and answered 6 of their 7 questions with a resounding “Yes”, showing his support for OGAM, mandatory trigger locks, harsher penalties for drunken carrying, repeal of preemption, legislating BB guns into firearms, and mandatory loss/theft reporting (see my take on that silliness here).
Hmmm, so now we can add an odd definition of pro-gun to the WPEB’s odd definition of working. Next sentence:
The commission found that the law had significantly reduced the number of Virginia guns found at crime scenes beyond its borders. A contemporaneous study by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (now known as the Brady Center) showed that the limit reduced by 66 percent the number of Virginia-bought guns recovered from crimes scenes in the Northeast corridor.
So a study completed in August of 1995 looked at the effectiveness of Virginia’s OGAM law which took effect in July of 1993 and concluded that the law had effected a significant 66% reduction in VA crime guns. This despite the fact that according to the ATF, only 27% of “crime guns” had a time to crime of two years or less.
As David Kopel points out in Clueless: The Misuse of BATF Firearms Tracing Data:
[T]he Congressional Research Service cautions that the “firearms (which the) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms selected for tracing cannot be considered representative of the larger universe of all firearms used by criminals or any subset of that universe,” because “the firearms selected for tracing do not constitute a random sample.”
As for the Brady Campaign’s “contemporaneous study”, they limited their pool of “crime guns” to:
firearms purchased prior to (September 1989 through June 1993) and after (July 1993 through March 1995) enactment of a Virginia law limiting handgun purchases to 1 per month.
And even then, to get their 66% number they further limited the pool of traces to:
traces initiated in the northeast corridor (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts)
As Dr. Gary Kleck points out in BATF Gun Trace Data And The Role Of Organized Gun Trafficking In Supplying Guns To Criminals:
The unrepresentativeness of samples of traced guns is, however, more than just a hypothetical mathematical possibility. By comparing samples of traced guns with the full set of all guns recovered by police, it has been shown that trace samples are not in fact representative of crime guns from general.
So by further limiting their sample, the Bradys further limited the validity of their “study.” While JAMA may be a prestigious medical journal their publication of junk-science anti-gun articles (the Kellerman study springs to mind) has eroded their credibility.
The WaPo screed goes on:
The law worked, which is why it is unfathomable that the state is on the verge of throwing it out. … The only thing standing in the way of the bill becoming law is the signature of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who voted for the limit as a state delegate but has since reversed course.
Okay, I think I have shown that it certainly did not work, so is that why did Gov. McD changed his mind? Was it perhaps the dastardly NRA or the fiendish Eevil Gun Lobby® that “got” to him? The WPEB doesn’t say but the governor did, stating that after 19 years,
“It makes sense to revisit Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month limit,” he said, indicating the new technology reduces the need to impose a monthly limit on handgun purchases.
The editorial then goes from not telling us what people have said to telling us what people have said.
Virginia advocates of repeal argue that limiting law-abiding state residents to one purchase per month spits in the face of their Second Amendment rights.
You know, I did repeated Google searches for various permutations of that spit-in-the-face phrase and the only place I found it was in quotes from this editorial. Using different searches I did find lots of opposition, but the most popular expression seemed to be rationing Second Amendment rights. But I suppose I shouldn’t be too nit-picky, after all what is important is the sense of the opposition. But speaking of sense, it seems the WPEB is fresh out.
Does the Second Amendment guarantee a right to purchase dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of deadly weapons each month?
Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but YES. Just as the First Amendment guarantees a right to purchase dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of books a month, print dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of newspaper articles a month, or go to church dozens or hundreds or thousands of times (okay, that’s not really practical, but you see the point).
And don’t try to tell me books don’t kill or I’ll tell you Mein Kampf, Manifesto of the Communist Party (aka The Communist Manifesto), The Turner Diaries, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Guerrilla Warfare (the murderous psychopath Che Guevara’s epistle), and so on.
To discard a law that has been effective for almost 20 years makes no sense.
I’d say discarding an abrogation of the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right  after almost 20 years is eminently sensible and a tiny step in the right direction.
 Some might think this is a good idea, but this proposal has nothing to do with actual gun safety or with actual misuse of a firearm while intoxicated. This is just another malum prohibitumlaw attempting to ratchet down the restrictions on gun owners.