IN June, when Gov. Ralph Northam called a special session on gun
control after the mass shooting by a municipal employee in Virginia Beach, he pointedly challenged the Republican-led General Assembly to come up with “votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers” to end gun violence in the commonwealth.
The legislature adjourned after 90 minutes, tasking the bipartisan Virginia Crime Commission to look at dozens of gun control proposals and come up with recommendations by mid-November. The move was widely viewed as a cynical way to avoid dealing with a politically charged issue before the Nov. 5 election.
Last Tuesday, the commission released a three-page report on the Virginia Beach massacre that tossed the hot-potato back to the General Assembly. After noting that “overall findings from the research were often insufficient, mixed, contradictory, or based on limited methodology,” the report concluded that “staff determined that inconclusive evidence exists to develop recommendations.”
The commission’s approach could be characterized as another cop-out—except for the fact that nobody, including the governor, knows how to prevent a mass shooting from happening again, which is supposedly the main goal of Northam’s gun control agenda, which he says will be his number one issue next session.
After an exhaustive investigation into the background of 40-year-old public utilities engineer DeWayne Craddock, Virginia Beach Deputy Police Chief Patrick Gallagher told city officials in September that the police still had no clue why he went on his murderous rampage.
A months-long independent investigation into the mass shooting likewise yielded no easy answers. A 262-page report presented to the Virginia Beach City Council by Chicago-based security firm Hillard Heintze also concluded that there were no red flags that could have prevented the May 31 massacre.
Besides a lack of warning signs, independent investigators uncovered no plausible reason why Craddock, described as a divorced “loner” with few close relationships, decided to mow down 12 people, 11 of them his co-workers, with two legally purchased handguns. Although he had recently been written up by one of his victims for having a “poor attitude,” they could still not explain how such seemingly ordinary “stressors” turned him into a mass murderer.
“The information is just not there,” Arnette Heintze, the company’s CEO and founder, told reporters.
Despite the city’s inability to prevent the massacre, the Hillard Heintze report offered 60 recommendations, including installing more security cameras and beefing up its emergency notification system, since the first “active shooter” notification was sent after all the victims were already dead. All good ideas, but after the fact.
Likewise, an exhaustive report by a blue-ribbon panel following the 2007 massacre of 32 students and staff at Virginia Tech detailed major failings in the commonwealth’s mental health and law enforcement systems that enabled Seung Hui Cho, who had exhibited severe mental health issues since childhood, to legally purchase the two handguns he used during his bloody rampage.
However, the Northam administration’s review of the Virginia Tech panel’s 91 recommendations found that the vast majority of them had already been implemented before the Virginia Beach incident.
What’s left? Universal background checks? Ten-day waiting periods? Limits on the number of guns that can be purchased each month? Red flag laws? A ban on “assault” weapons? Regulating the purchase of ammunition? Raising the legal age to purchase a firearm?
California already passed all those gun control laws and then some, including a prohibition on openly carrying an unloaded handgun in public, in addition to the usual bans for felons, sex offenders, and the mentally incompetent.
Yet none of those “votes and laws” were able to prevent one disturbed 16-year-old from opening fire in his Santa Clarita high school and killing two of his fellow students, or another shooter from killing four people and wounding six others at a football watch party in Fresno—both within the last two weeks.
Whether it’s a toxic mix of mental illness, social maladjustment, cultural rot, disrespect for human life or just plain evil that precipitates these premeditated mass murders, one thing is clear: Nobody really knows why they keep happening or how to stop them.
“Votes and laws” that restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners in Virginia will allow Gov. Northam and his allies in Richmond to virtue signal, but they won’t solve the underlying problem of gun violence or mass murder in a society that’s unraveling before our eyes.