I’ve watched a lot of Virginia General Assembly debates over the years, and while many have been interesting, eloquent, informative, etc., yesterday’s State Senate floor debate on Sen. Dick Black (R)’s SB 1024, to allow guns in places of worship (e.g., just what we need, right???), was…uhhh…I guess whatever the polar opposite of “interesting, eloquent, informative, etc.” happens to be.
See below for video of the debate, along with my “highlights’ of the greatest idiocy. And honestly, it’s not even so much about the issue at stake, but about the just complete absurdity of the arguments, both for and against.
- First off, just the fact that crazy extremist Dick Black – BFF of Bashar Assad, the guy who muses about Spousal Rape, “Nighties,” etc., the guy who Rails Against Gays in the Military, the guy who argues that polygamy is “just more natural” than homosexuality, the guy who called birth control pills “baby pesticides,” passed out “pink plastic fetus dolls to state lawmakers in 2003 in a creepy campaign to win votes for various anti-abortion measures,” etc, etc. – is the patron of this bill is hard to stomach. I mean, after all of Black’s insanity, extremism and bigotry over the years, how can his colleagues even listen to the guy, let alone consider voting for anything he proposes? I guess you have to be a master of “compartmentalization” – and have a strong set of nose plugs – to serve in the Virginia State Senate.
- As for Black’s arguments in this case, the entire concept that having more people with guns is going to save lives and/or make things safer has been debunked a gazillion times. For instance, see Places with more guns have more homicides: The relationship is real, More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows, Do guns make us safer? Science suggests no, Guns Make You and Your Family Less Safe, Not More (“The evidence is pretty overwhelming”), etc, etc.
- Sen. Black claims – based on what, who knows – that people at church are “uniquely vulnerable as we all know, because they’re lined up in a church pew” and are the “the ultimate target.” Is there any evidence at all that backs up this claim? If so, I couldn’t find it.
- Sen. Lionell Spruill (D)’s arguments almost make bat****-crazy Dick Black look sane by comparison. According to Spruill, if you support allowing guns in places of worship, that means you “no longer trust in god” – “if there is one place that god is solid, let him have the church.” Spruill then goes on a mini-rant about not allowing prayer in schools (“we have foolishly took [sic] prayer out of school…because of votes”) and equates that to allowing people in places of worship to carry guns (“and now we want to say let’s take god out of church and bring guns in church…let god have something…let’s not take god out of our church”). Who even knows what he’s talking about.
- Spruill DOES make a good point, that he doesn’t see any pastors, priests, etc. flooding the General Assembly and demanding that legislators allow them to have guns in church.
- Sen. Barbara Favola (D) then bizarrely claims that Spruill’s points were “eloquent” (seriously?!?), and completely botches the point she tries to make, saying “Harvard University analyzed the data from the National Crime Victimization Survey and found that people with guns actually only used them in defense of themselves or others nine-tenths of the time.” Uhhhh…what? In fact, that’s the exact opposite of the point Favola presumably was trying to make, which is that it’s VERY RARE for people with guns to use them “in defense of themselves or others.” Thus, according to the Harvard analysis Favola cites, “people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.” That’s right, 0.9 percent, not “nine-tenths of the time” (which would be 90%). Elementary-school math, anybody?
- Then, as if things weren’t bad enough, our old friend Sen. Amanda Chase (R) –
“packing heat” on the floor of the Senate, no less – got up to imply that South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims of the June 2015 mass shooting at the “African” (yep, she said “African” not “African-American”) Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, would have supported allowing guns in church.
- Sen. Chase claimed that “unfortunately, we don’t live in a society that respects churches anymore.” What does Chase base that claim on? To quote Sen. Chase, she bases that on “a town hall that I had in my church.” OK.
- Sen. Mamie Locke (D) then rose to issue a strong rebuttal to Sen. Chase’s point about Clementa Pinckney, saying that “I’m assured that Sen. Pinckney – the late pastor of Mother Emanuel AME church – would be in opposition to this bill.” Take that, Sen. Chase!
- Unlike Senators Black, Spruill, Favola and Chase, we finally got some intelligent comments – from Sen. Jennifer McClellan. According to Sen. McClellan, this bill makes many people “very uncomfortable,” among other reasons because people don’t want to have to worry when they’re in church whether “the person sitting next to me carrying a gun, is the person across from me carrying a gun?” Sen. McClellan also rebutted Sen. Chase’s implication regarding South Carolina – “the Legislative Black Caucus in South Carolina did not rush to allow or expand who had guns in churches in response to that tragedy; they actually also were concerned about making sure that gun violence is reduced…the more guns that there are in a specific location, the more likely one is going to be used; and when one IS used, law enforcement has said time and time again, when they come and there’s an active shooter situation…it is very difficult to determine are you the original shooter or are you someone trying to stop him, and it makes it every difficult for them to know how to react.” BINGO, thank you Sen. McClellan for those intelligent, relevant, fact-based comments!
- OK, enough intelligent/sane comments – now on to faaaar-right Sen. Mark “Criminalize Miscarriages” Obenshain (R). According to Obenshain, “there are a lot of Republicans who don’t like guns,” but the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that if a Republican doesn’t like guns, he “doesn’t buy one,” but “Democrats who don’t like guns, they don’t want anybody to buy one.” Uh huh. Obenshain then contradicts himself, arguing that the lines in the Virginia constitution prohibiting weapons in church are completely ineffective and unenforceable, BUT despite that fact, we badly need Sen. Black’s legislation to fix that supposed problem. The illogic is amazing, but sadly not surprising coming from Obenshain.
- Then, we get Sen. Bill Carrico (R), who raises hypotheticals about people meeting in homes to worship, and why wouldn’t they be prevented from carrying guns in their own house. Note: this language has been in the Virginia constitution forever, and this hasn’t happened, but be that as it may, Sen. Carrico seems to believe it’s a pressing problem.
- Sen. Chap Petersen (D) then gets up to claim that this is all about “stating our values,” that “a house of worship is different…we are making a statement of values…not about prosecuting people.” Which makes sense on one level, but is that really what a secular body like the Virginia General Assembly should be doing – stating “our values” that a “house of worship is different” and that people there should be protected from gun violence more/differently than people anywhere else? Why? Is it the government’s place to be trying to protect people more in religious than non-religious institutions?
- Sen. Dick Saslaw (D) – well known for opening his mouth and nobody having any idea what will spew out – then tells a weird, incoherent story someone or other told “years ago” by a “fellow…I think he was from Loudoun, I’m not sure,” who claimed that there was a shooting at the Israeli desk at the airport in Los Angeles, and how this “fellow” mentioned that he could have prevented that if he had been able to take a gun into the airport, and that some other person claimed she called the Israeli embassy and was supposedly told by the security director that if that person had come into the El Al waiting area at the airport that they would have “instantly killed him.” Wuuuuuut??? As I said, Saslaw is (in)famous for opening his mouth and having, er, stuff come out.
- Sen. David Suetterlein (R) then argues that people are carrying firearms at churches all over Virginia and that Sen. Black’s bill isn’t really a shift in policy, so…let’s pass it. Haha, alrighty.
- Sen. Jeremy McPike (D) then makes a great point, that he submitted a bill in 2017 to clarify the language in the code, but Republicans rejected it. So the whole argument by Republicans that the language is unclear and needs to be cleaned up by Sen. Black’s bill is rather…strange.
- Far-right Sen. John Cosgrove (R) then gets up to rant about “lies, damn lies and statistics”; about not imposing “your values on the values of others”; about universities with “incredulous” [sic] statistics – but how he’s “not surprised it came from a university”; that “the chances are a clergy member would never say, I’m going to kill a guy with a gun” (apparently that last comment was a non-sequitur response to Sen. Saslaw’s weird, incoherent story).
- Finally, Sen. Black gets back up to ramble for several minutes about…stuff, but mostly about how he’s “morally compelled” to argue that having guns in churches will NOT “exclude god” from there, because he’s been in battle, and he has “no doubt that god was not excluded from [armed soldiers’] presence…” Ergo, let’s have more guns in places of worship. Got it?
As I said, that was one of the stupidest, least helpful, most ridiculous debates I’ve seen in the Virginia General Assembly. And that’s really saying something. Oh yeah, the bill passed on a party-line vote, with all Republicans voting for it and all Democrats voting against – because of course it did! LOL