Friday, February 4, 2011

Virginia Senate Rejects Bill Allowing Guns on Campus

Although there has been an obvious increase in conversation surrounding gun control since the tragedy in Tuscon, there has been a debate going on in Virginia for quite some time about whether or not guns should be allowed on college campuses. The debate arises from a case that was brought challenging the gun ban at my alma mater -- George Mason University.

Even though the Virginia Supreme Court ruled last month that GMU's gun ban was legal, there were a lot of folks on the right who claimed that the decision shouldn't be made by judges but by elected officials. In other words, they were using their typical "activist judge" argument that they only abandon when the ruling benefits their cause (like when the judges that ruled against the health care bill).

So since the effort to allow guns on campus failed in the court system due to so called "activist judges," Sen Jill Vogel introduced a bill that would have banned state agencies (which public schools are) from enforcing gun laws that are stricter than those enacted by the legislature. Fortunately, the Senate Rules Committee realized the importance of keeping our college campuses safe and voted against the bill by a vote of 10 to 2 today.

In addition to the plain and simple fact that this helps keep our colleges in Virginia a safe place for students to learn, there are some things worth taking away as our country continues to have a national debate on gun control. Perhaps the biggest things is that while the state senate might be the more progressive body in Virginia's state legislator, it's still the state senate of Virginia. This is noteworthy because Virginia is a swing state that has a history (especially in the Southwest portion of the state) of outdoorsmen. Most statewide candidates from both parties therefore usually take a very balanced position between respecting hunters and advocating for policies that will prevent more gun violence. The fact that the bill was blocked by such a large margin shows that reasonable gun control measures can win support from areas that don't traditionally support strict gun control laws.

It's also worth noting that this was about making sure that guns could be banned on college campuses. In other words, the scope of this bill's impact was rather limited. This suggests that one way of moving forward with gun control laws might be to focus on limited that might help make our communities safer. For instance, there's a lot of talk right now at the federal level about making enormous clips like the one used by the shooter in Arizona illegal. While steps like these won't take all the guns off the street, they might help to save some lives and appear to be getting support from people on both sides of the aisle.

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