This was my first Virginia Lobby Day, and I’m glad Rob dragged my sorry ass out of bed at 0500 to drive to Richmond on a holiday, when I should have been sleeping in.
Mostly, I wanted to observe, but in the end, I got involved.
We joined the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL). I consider them the most effective, best organized group in Virginia. And the turnout didn’t disappoint.
We were told there were about 750 people there – some carrying, and some not, and all sporting these stickers.
It was cool that no one was freaking out. It was obvious that the police were accustomed to it, so anyone entering the General Assembly Building simply got an ID check and waved on through. One of the security officers even advised me where I can get my CCW laminated, so it wouldn’t get worn. Sometimes, I really love Virginia!
We hooked up with a group of VCU students, lobbying their legislators to allow concealed carry on college campuses. We spoke to a few of their representatives, and Rob and I debated. Should we even bother with ours? After all, we live in Arlington, and our legislators are some of the most liberal in the state. We are definitely two little red-ish spots in a sea of blue. So was it worth it?
Yes, we decided. It was. If nothing else, it would have been amusing to watch Barbara Favola squirm with discomfort while talking to two gun rights advocates, one of them openly carrying an M1911 on her hip. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t catch up with the good Senator, but we made an appointment to see our delegate, Patrick Hope. We shared our appointment with two other Arlington residents – both VCDL members – and we were pleasantly surprised. Patrick Hope disagrees with us on most gun rights issues. He could correctly be described as an “anti.” He wants universal background checks, including forcing private individuals to perform background checks before selling their own property. I get the feeling he would likely support an “assault” weapons ban as well. And he believes there is a gun show “loophole.”
He listens. He engages. He debates. He understands. And you can tell that he considers.
I told him that as an immigrant from the former USSR, I found the idea of forcing someone to ask permission to exercise a basic right absolutely repugnant.
I told him that according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the majority of firearms used in crimes do not come from gun shows, but from the black market, theft, straw purchases, etc. In other words, criminals do not bother undergoing a background check.
I told him less than 2 percent of guns used in crimes come from gun shows.
I told him that making tools of self defense cost-prohibitive to people who need them most – poor people, who may live in less safe neighborhoods – by forcing sellers to perform background checks that will likely entail extra costs to the seller, who will then pass them on to the buyer – was unjust.
I told him what politicians call “assault” rifles are semi-automatic guns that are very appropriate for self-defense… Katrina… LA riots… Hurricane Andrew…
He listened. I could tell he was processing the information. He told me that even if it was true that the vast majority of criminals do not get guns legally, if it only saves one life…
I understand that sentiment, but it’s based on a false premise. There is not a shred of evidence that shows bans and background checks save lives. As a matter of fact, firearms crime was already on the decline when the Brady background checks were implemented.
We all wish for a world without violence, and we all want to “do something” about crime.
But I tried to make him understand that relieving the rest of us of our rights will do nothing to save lives.
Again, I got the feeling that he was listening. He didn’t tune out simply because I was challenging him. It’s tough to change engrained thinking, and it’s even more difficult when someone challenges your premises and won’t let up. I have a tendency to do that.
As we were leaving, I urged him… as a woman, as an immigrant and as a veteran to give careful consideration to what I told him. He shook my hand, thanked me for my service and promised to think on it.
I guess that’s all anyone could ask.