Brace yourselves -- law changes a-coming.
As today’s news about the attack on lawmakers at baseball practice in Alexandria, VA spins down it will be examined for lessons and, frankly, political hay making.
By all accounts, the US Capitol Police, charged with the safekeeping of the Majority Whip, Rep Steve Scalise and others, performed heroically. Senator Rand Paul is on tape stating they stopped what would have been a “massacre” in a “killing field.” Rep Mo Rogers of Alabama recounts how one officer, himself also shot by the shooter, dragged out beyond second base to help the felled Scalise.
By mid-morning Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and others were abuzz with the news and citizenry calls for prayer and unity —- and more than a few less generous observations. Some referred to Karma ‘getting even’ with the Republican lawmakers due to their longstanding support of the NRA. Others wondered if this would “wake them up”. Some suggested the shooter would claim mental illness (a very likely scenario) but not have had insurance for services under the Republican Congress’s revised healthcare plan. Still others noted the irony that Rep Scalise’s wife wasn’t worried that she wouldn’t be able to pay the looming medical bills because the Congress enjoys gold-plated health insurance.
While a day from now seems a bit more civil time, it is right that our democracy examine and debate these things.
There will be the inevitable call for gun control and more gun free zones countered by the argument the one guy -— the heroic Capitol policeman -— was able to end things because he was armed.
So as the gun debate rages in the coming days, I’ve prepared some data to assist us as we try to cram this incident into our (likely already made up) minds’ view.
From the Alexandria, Virginia Police homepage:
Firearms Registration/Handgun Purchases
The City of Alexandria does not require a permit for gun ownership and does not require guns to be registered.
AHA! There’s the problem. No permit for gun ownership required. Had he needed a permit, this obviously would not have happened.
But note the same webpage says directly below:
No firearm or airgun (BB) can be discharged within the City limits except by law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties.
Hmmmm… the shooter’s action definitely violated that law. Did he just not know about this ordinance?
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Let’s jump over to the website of The Center To Prevent Gun Violence for some clarification. They point out:
Virginia has no laws prohibiting firearms in the following places, although administrative regulations may apply:
This shooting occurred at a baseball field in a park area. Had Virginia wisely enacted laws prohibiting firearms in Parks could this could have been averted?
From the same website (italics mine):
Virginia prohibits the carrying of certain kinds of loaded firearms on or about the person, openly or concealed, on any public street, road, alley, sidewalk, public right-of-way, or in any public park or any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public in certain cities. More specifically, the law applies to a loaded: (i) semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine that will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock;
The shooter, in the public park area, used a semi-automatic weapon even though that is clearly against the law to do so in a park particularly with a semi-automatic.
But the shooter isn’t from Aleaxandria, Virginia, or Virginia at all. Authorities have identified him (I refuse to give his name any publicity and shall not print it) and state he is from Belleville, IL.
Illinois is not a gun friendly state. They regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition and require registration and possession of an ID card issued after background checks. More background checks are conducted before purchase of a firearm.
And from the Belleville, VA local code:
30-1-11 DISCHARGE OF FIREARMS. No person shall, within the City, fire or discharge any firearms or air gun without written permission from the Mayor first obtained, which permission shall prescribe the limits within which such firing may be done, and may be revoked at any time after it has been granted. (Sec. 61.10)
So even if you’ve passed the Illinois background checks and have your card, you cannot shoot your gun without first getting a note from the Mayor…
I’m searching but can find no evidence the shooter requested permission to open fire on members of congress, their staffs and their security detail from his own Mayor, nor the Mayor of Alexandria.
From my research I think we can surmise a few things. First, this shooter was not bounded by law. We will hear a lot about what made him do this over the coming days, but know that in this particular case, laws simply did not matter to him.
Only a security detail armed with a pistol stopped the guy, and luck (and prayer as per the quotes from Congress people caught in the crosshairs and seeing no way out of harm.) The Capitol policemen used a pistol to fend off a guy with a semi-automatic and extra ammunition. Let’s refer to them as heroes again.
When I was a young teen there was terrible accident on the two-lane road from town out to our neck of the woods. A couple of kids were killed and a couple badly injured when their speeding vehicle missed a curve and wrapped up with an old oak off the road 20 yards. It was tragic. They were going over 75 mph in a 45 mph zone.
So our wise city leaders lowered the speed limit to 30 mph the following month to prevent another such tragedy. But, of course, that 30 mph speed limit didn’t stop the car full of teens not 12 months later. That was a tragedy, too. One that speed limit laws could not prevent.
If anything today’s shooting in Alexandria shows that laws do not affect the citizen who decides to become a mass shooter (and likely hoped to be a mass murderer). And laws permitting self defense don’t take into account the lap swimmer or charity baseball practice because people don’t swim and practice baseball with a Glock strapped onto them.
As we learn more about the citizen who decided to become a shooter, we will not learn that he had respect for laws regulating gun use. If he brought his guns with him and if he purchased them in Illinois we know that he foiled some of the country’s most stringent efforts to curtail just this type of thing. (At this writing, it is undetermined where the two weapons seized at the scene were obtained by the shooter. It is known his run-ins with IL law enforcement include a complaint around his illegal use of a rifle).