School shootings can happen anywhere, anytime. But it's worth looking at the gun control laws in Virginia after today's tragedy at Virginia Tech and noting that the state has a poor track record when it comes to gun control.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which issues an annual state reportcard on gun laws, gives the state a C-, noting that the state is outright failing when it comes to safety locks and standards. The state also doesn't allow cities to regulate guns, and it doesn't execute background checks on private sales - perhaps significant in this case - and it allows open carry of a handgun that has a capacity of twenty rounds or less. (The NRA tracks gun legislation closely as well. Check out the latest happenings in Virginia, or in any other state, via the NRA-ILA's clickable map.)
Earlier today President's Bush spokesperson Dana Perino addressed today's events and was asked how the President will respond in terms of gun regulations:
I would point you back to the fact that President, along with Secretary Spellings, hosted last October a conference on school gun violence after the Amish school shooting and the other shootings that had happened, because the tragedies are the ones that just collectively break America's heart...As far as policy, the President believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed. And certainly bringing a gun into a school dormitory and shooting...obviously that would be against the law and something that someone should be held accountable for.
Q: Does there need to be some more restrictions? Does there need to be gun control in this country?
Perino: If there are changes to the President's policy we will let you know. But we've had a consistent policy of ensuring that the Justice Department is enforcing all of the gun laws that we have on the books and making sure that they're prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
A reporter then pushed Perino (who's not yet comfortable with being pushed) noting that while Governor of Texas, Bush ushered in legislation eliminating the age restriction on gun possession.
Q: Should there be some kind of federal age limit, as far as the President is concerned, raising the age for gun possession in this country?
Perino: Unfortunately, I'm going to have to go back and look at what the record was in Texas.
Well, Dana, let me help you out. Texas is one of six states (Alabama, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Maine, Texas and Wyoming are the others) where there is no minimum age for possession. Virginia isn't one of these states, and the shooter of 30+ people and himself was not a minor, but gun control laws in aggregate help determine the accessibility of weapons and can impact the outcome of a tragic situation.
There is much, much more to be learned about what went down today, and how this troubled man got his hands on a gun is only a small part of the story. But be sure, just about everyone wishes it had been harder for him to do so.