THE JULY 21 “CITY DESK” column alleged that Virginia was “the first state in the nation to authorize concealed weapons permits on a massive scale.” Your fact-checker must have been slacking off because at least 26 other states have enacted liberal concealed weapons laws similar to Virginia’s new law. In any case, the fact that Sheriff James Dunning (Alexandria’s own Barney Fife) used the new weapons law to justify the installation of metal detectors is merely proof that the sheriff’s hyplophobia (irrational fear of firearms) has overcome his common sense. It is common sense to use metal detectors in courthouse entrances because it will effectively deter criminals from carrying guns to court (police and gun-permit holders are not supposed to carry guns into the courthouse anyway). Washington City Paper should do a little fact checking before repeating Handgun Control Inc.-inspired nonsense.
It is ironic that a liberal publication like City Paper would seem to be opposed to the reform of Virginia’s old Jim Crow-era concealed weapons law. In 1991, a study was commissioned by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. The resulting study was titled “The Issuance of Concealed Weapon Permits in Virginia” by John G. Schuiteman, Ph.D. Schuiteman’s study did a detailed analysis on how concealed weapons permits were issued in four Richmond-area localities during 1990- 91.
These four localities were found to have a wide disparity in their issuance of permits. The most liberal in issuing permits was Richmond City, which issued permits to 97 percent of applicants (221 permits). The most restrictive in issuing permits was Henrico County, which only issued permits to 38 percent of applicants (97 permits). In Henrico County, the successful applicants were overwhelmingly white males (96 percent male, 97 percent white). In Richmond, which issued permits to most applicants, there was found to be more diversity among the successful applicants (81 percent male, 45 percent white). These statistics demonstrate that when judges decided to exercise their “discretion” in issuing permits, female Virginians and African-Americans got the short end of the stick. Keep in mind that this study was done at the behest of Gov. Douglas Wilder’s administration, which even the most ardent gun-control advocate will be hard pressed to describe as biased in favor of gun rights.
Virginians of all ethnic backgrounds support the new nondiscriminatory concealed weapons law. On July 3, I went to Alexandria police headquarters to apply for my permit under the new law. The other applicants seemed to be fairly representative of the Alexandria community; of the eight applicants I saw, three were African-American. Two of my African-American neighbors told me that they had been rejected under the old law as having “no need” for a permit.
Unfortunately one local jurisdiction still seems bound and determined to discriminte against society’s least fortunte members. Arlington County is violating the new law by charging $120 for permits. The letter and spirit of of the law allow a maximum charge of $50. Apparently the political establishment in Arlington wants to make self-defense economically unfeasible for low-income citizens. The poorest members of our society are the very people most preyed upon by violent criminal predators—therefore, the Northern Virginia Civil Defense League is strongly opposed to Arlington’s fee inflation. We are urging Arlingtonians to call the Arlington County Board and demand that the fee for the weapons permits be lowered to $50.
Now that Virginia has reformed its weapons law, Virginia will have an enhanced ability to defend themselves. Hopefully our family and friends in Maryland and D.C. will soon follow our lead and restore their rights.
Director, Northern Virginia Citizens Defense League, Alexandria, Va.