Virginia has a concealed-weapons law. But Virginia Tech was, by the decree of its administrators, a "gun-free zone." Those with concealed-weapons permits were not allowed to take their guns on campus and were disciplined when they did. A bill was introduced in the state House of Delegates to allow permit-holders to carry guns on campus. When it was sidetracked, a Virginia Tech administrator hailed the action and said that students, professors and visitors would now "feel safe" on campus.
Tragically, they weren't safe. Virginia Tech's "gun-free zone" was not gun-free. In contrast, killers on other campuses were stopped by faculty or bystanders who had concealed-weapons permits and brandished their guns to stop the killing.
We may hear more about gun control at the national level. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the District of Columbia's ban on handguns violates the Second Amendment's right "to keep and bear arms."
Judge Laurence Silberman's strong opinion argues that this is consistent with the Supreme Court's ruling in a 1939 case upholding a federal law banning sawed-off shotguns. Limited regulation is allowed, Silberman wrote, but not a total ban. Somewhere on the road between a law banning possession of nuclear weapons and banning all guns, the Second Amendment stands in the way. This is the view as well of the liberal constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe. The Supreme Court may take the case, which is in conflict with other circuits' rulings.
If it upholds the D.C. decision, there is still room for reasonable gun regulation. The mental health ruling on the Virginia Tech killer surely should have been entered into the instant check database to prevent him from buying guns. The National Rifle Association is working with gun control advocate Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., to improve that database.
But even as we fine-tune laws to make sure guns don't get into the wrong hands, maybe the opinion elites will realize that in places where gun ownership is widespread, we're safer than in a "gun-free zone."
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