Virginia: Open Letter, Chairman Patrick A. Hope & Vice Chairman Jeffrey M. Bourne

Special Session and Dueling Rallies at the Virginia Capitol
Special Session and Dueling Rallies at the Virginia Capitol

Virginia – -( Open Letter:

Chairman Delegate Hope and Vice-Chairman Delegate Bourne;

I attended last Friday’s House Public Safety Committee’s hearing on HB 961, Governor Northam’s scary gun, magazine, and accessories ban, and I was disgusted by your management of the hearing in your respective capacities as Chair and Vice-Chair.

In the audience on either side of me were people that traveled several hours to attend that hearing. One gentleman was a business owner from a rural county who knew all too well that reliance on law enforcement to protect him is preposterous. The other was a retired officer of the Inspector General who said that law enforcement recognizes that the best deterrence to crime isn’t more law enforcement, but an armed population. As a forensic psychiatrist, I know that psychiatrists are the medical specialists that are most likely to be victims of homicide. We each have unique reasons to be armed, and because of that, we are willing to apply our time, talents, and treasure to the preservation of our rights.

Even with its current amendments, this bill turns the three of us into felons, overnight, for the possession of standard-capacity magazines and heavily, federally regulated suppressors that we purchased as law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes. It shouldn’t surprise either of you that just proposing this bill is morally repugnant to us, especially when your party voted down both Project Ceasefire and bills calling for increased penalties for criminals who commit rape at gunpoint. Your party put its sights on us, insulted victims, and gave criminals a free pass.

Adding to our outrage were the incredible lies told during that hearing. One doesn’t need to be a lawyer to understand that the Heller decision protected our right to keep “weapons in common use.” The items this bill bans are all in common use. Vice-Chairman, as a former member of the Attorney General’s staff, were you unable to correct Delegate Levine, when he said that the Supreme Court of the United States upheld these bans? What stopped you from pointing out that the Federal Circuit Courts that have ignored Heller are lower courts, and that the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on these bans? You allowed Delegate Levine to continue the buffoonery he began when he pantomimed his laughably mistaken ideas for what constitutes an “assault weapon” by allowing him the additional opportunity to display his ignorance of our courts.

Furthermore, Vice Chairman, when you said that these weapons and magazines were made for the military and should only be present on battlefields, were you aware that the Capitol Police present at the hearing were carrying Sig Sauer P320 pistols with 16 round magazines plus one in the chamber? Are the Capitol Police intending to wage war, and are they planning on turning the Capitol grounds into a battlefield? Now that your party has made the Pocahontas Building a gun-free zone, even for those of us with concealed handgun permits, why do they continue to need military-grade firepower to keep the peace? If these magazines are so intrinsically dangerous why should the Capitol Police have them at all?

Chairman, given the historic significance of this bill, it is shocking that it wasn’t first heard in a sub-committee, and it was completely unacceptable that only six (6) minutes were allotted for public dissent.

It was plainly obvious to you that the dissenters outnumbered the supporters many times over. The just and decent thing to do, prior to turning those dissenters into felons, would be to have at least let them speak. We came to change hearts and minds, but we recognize that most of the committee members arrived with orders from the Governor, who in turn appears to be taking orders from an out-of-state billionaire. At the very least, we came to bear witness to our process of government and hoped to leave assured that it continues to function as our Founders intended. What you presided over was a deliberate affront to the four hundred years of history of our Assembly. You should have been prepared to listen all day and night if necessary to ensure that every voice was heard. How great is the urgency to eliminate our rights that you couldn’t be bothered to listen to us speak? Had the two of you allowed those in attendance to speak, I doubt anyone in the audience would have said anything “disruptive” at the hearing’s conclusion. It is regrettable that they spoke out at the end, because it is as plain as day that you baited them into doing that.

What makes their “disruption” most regrettable, however, is that this monstrous bill has the fight of its life ahead of it. You rushed HB 961 through because you didn’t have the support you needed previously to get this to the Senate, and you were running out of time before next week’s crossover. It is likely to be further modified by the House. Even if the Senate Committee that receives it lets it pass, it is unlikely to pass the Senate. It certainly won’t pass unscathed, and so it will have to survive the wranglings of a conference committee. At each juncture, the few sane liberals in your party will have the opportunity to listen to their constituents and kill this bill.

Although you wouldn’t pause to let us speak, we haven’t stopped exercising our rights. Background checks for gun purchases doubled in the Commonwealth last month, and ammunition sales in deep-blue Arlington are up 339% compared to one year ago.

Do you think those Arlingtonians are only filling ten-round magazines? This bill, and its progenitor, SB 16, in turn, gave birth to the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement in Virginia. These bills mobilized many thousands who could not stand politics to become involved, because, to their amazement, rather than focusing on criminals, you chose to focus on them and their rights.

I can assure you and every member of the Assembly that we will not back down and we have the support of gun owners throughout the United States. The Second Amendment, our Commonwealth’s Constitution, the facts of civilian gun usage, and the Heller decision are on our side, not yours. When Secretary Moran greeted Philip Van Cleave (president of Virginia Citizens Defense League) and me at the NRA’s January 13th lobby day, he said that he’d see us again on the floor of the Assembly. I replied that we’d see him in court. The high court of the nation appears ready to restore the rights that have been wrongfully infringed upon by those of you who target the law-abiding and give aid to criminals. There is no shortage of your constituents that would happily be the plaintiff in … v Commonwealth of Virginia to set this right.

Respectfully yours,

Dennis Petrocelli, MD

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