Gov. Northam Can’t Help Himself, Picks Gun Control Over Virus Control

Gov. Northam Can’t Help Himself, Picks Gun Control Over Virus Control

Gun control legislation has been all the rage in Richmond since Democrats took over the Virginia General Assembly last November. The Democratic majority teamed with Gov. Ralph Northam in their ambitious efforts to cross items off the gun control checklist, such as enacting a “red flag” law, banning private firearm transfers, reviving a handgun purchase limit, and even implementing a modern sporting rifle ban that was thankfully defeated in committee — for now.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the governor who wouldn’t let his past use of blackface stop his political pandering would also not let a global pandemic stop him and his fellow Democrats from diverting taxpayer funds toward purely symbolic gun control programs.

This past March, as the coronavirus pandemic began sweeping across the nation, Virginia’s General Assembly passed SB 248, a bill that would redirect $3 million in grant money over the next two years to local-level gun control initiatives. Despite the gaping fiscal hole Virginia faces due to Northam’s disjointed efforts to combat COVID-19, the governor is expected to sign this gun control bill.

This is no doubt what Northam must do to satisfy his anti-gun financiers such as Michael Bloomberg, who spent millions to buy the 2019 Virginia election. The state’s taxpayers, however, would be better off if their elected officials instead focused on blunting the economic and health effects of the Wuhan virus.

Three million dollars of taxpayer money is no paltry sum, but for Virginia Democrats it is most likely just the tip of the fiscal iceberg. While the grant allocation has yet to be laid out publicly, a simple comparison to similar programs in other states shows that costs will still be prohibitive. For instance, a contract with the Cure Violence program, which has received similar grants in other states, can cost taxpayers up to $500,000. That’s just one example.

Meanwhile, Virginia’s small businesses are facing economic peril and uncertainty as they try to comply with the governor’s inconsistent plan for allowing business activity to resume — that is, if they were able to survive his interminable lockdown at all. As of May 5, Northam decided against a regional approach to reopening, despite data showing that some parts of the state had experienced zero coronavirus cases.

While the governor was no doubt preoccupied with how he could better serve Bloomberg’s anti-gun agenda, the Roanoke Times pointed out that the governor’s initial reasoning for his reopening policy was illogical and poorly designed. The paper’s editorial board was quick to call out, among other inconsistencies, that the policy was recommended by his “COVID-19 Business Task Force” but that this group did not include anyone from the Roanoke Valley, “the largest metro area west of the urban crescent.”

Despite Northam’s public stance in early May, the governor subsequently reversed course, and Virginia went on to reopen regionally. As of May 15, much of the commonwealth had moved to “Phase One” reopening, while northern Virginia remained under lockdown. Yet while parts of the state are being allowed to partially reopen, Northam simultaneously mandated that Virginians must wear face coverings anywhere people gather indoors.

Virginians might take the governor’s attempts at leadership more seriously if he too bothered to wear a mask or socially distance in public, or if Virginia had not ranked 48th out of all U.S states for COVID-19 testing at the onset of the pandemic. Instead of addressing those issues in their infancy or dealing with their subsequent fallout, Northam can’t help but appease his anti-gun political masters by committing a small mountain of taxpayer dollars toward a symbolic gun control program.

There is an upside, however. In late May, Virginia voters turned out for municipal elections and ousted Northam Democrats from city councils that had been Democratic strongholds for years. By angering voters with his anti-gun pandering and his tragically inept handling of the coronavirus, Northam may have tipped the political pendulum of the commonwealth back to red.

Lawrence G. Keane is a senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.
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