Grab the Derringer, Honey, We’re Taking the Kids to McDonalds

What fun, huh? What could be more ‘American’ than coming home after a long day and deciding to give yourselves a break and the kids a treat? And now the Republican-led House of Delegates in Richmond has made it even more fun, by approving — in a 62-26 vote — your right to pack a revolver in your pocket while the kids eat their fries.

What in God’s name is happening to our culture? Or should the question be, what are gun-obsessed politicians doing to our culture?

The bill in question SB 476, had been drafted to prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms into Virginia restaurants. Take a look at how a sensible prohibition against guns in eating establishments, especially those which serve alcohol, was twisted into a permit to carry a gun in such places. This is the wording of the bill, as changed by an amendment added before it passed (the original words are in italics; the added ones are in bold):

• No person shall carry who carries a concealed handgun onto the premises of any restaurant or club … which [has] a license to sell and serve alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption … may consume an alcoholic beverage while on the premises.

Clever, isn’t it? Just amend a well-intentioned “No person shall carry a concealed handgun” into a bar or restaurant, and bastardize it into its polar opposite by changing the language. It went from “no person ‘shall’ carry” a gun, to “no person ‘who’ carries” a gun; and then adding “may consume an alcoholic beverage” at the end.

From, you can’t carry a ‘concealed’ gun into an eating place; to, sure, you can carry a gun in your pocket; you just can’t drink.

This nefarious victory for the National Rifle Association, which is headquartered just outside Arlington in Fairfax County, came courtesy of Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., a Republican senator from Mount Solon, in the Shenandoah Valley southwest of Harrisonburg.

According to press reports, Governor Kaine feels he has to ‘review the details of the bill’ before deciding whether to sign or veto it.

Based on this bill’s provisions, apparently it’s already Ok for you to carry your handgun and holster outside your jacket wherever you go in the Commonwealth. The cause célèbre of gunsters now is hiding them, when you’re in public.

Thirty people were meticulously slaughtered by Virginia handguns at Virginia Tech less than a year ago. Have we learned nothing about the insanity of widespread, no limits possession of handguns in our state and country?

For most of us, this kind of lawmaking is under our radar. Bills fly through our Assembly and, were it not for the press, we’d rarely hear about any of them. Most of the time an entity with the strength of the NRA operates with the wind at its back, sailing its packages of public poison into laws, despite the good efforts of our local Arlington delegates and senators.

Until now things seemed to be changing, in our Virginia and in the nation. We evicted a Republican racist from one of our seats in the U.S. Senate, installing Jim Webb.

Virginia appeared to be joining the nation in ending the politics of violence and hate. Instead, the Assembly snapped a bit of hope from our lives and gave-in to the purveyors of handguns, the only purpose of which is to kill human beings. While rifles are used for hunting and can’t be concealed, easily purchased handguns fit nicely in any pocket and are used all over this gun-infested land to kill spouses, girlfriends, neighbors, and street crime victims. There’s a reason they’re termed “Saturday Night Specials,” since they can be found at virtually every crime scene in every city and village across the country.

And now Virginia, if the governor should fail to use his veto, could see a metastasizing of gun violence in bars and eateries all over the state, thanks to this insane legislation.

‘Sure, you can hide your gun under your shirt or in your bag; but we made certain everything will be safe in the restaurants,’ say those who voted for SB 476, ‘because you can’t drink while you’re packing a gun.’

So, when you’re arrested for killing someone in a late night shootout, heaven help you if you took a drink, because that’s illegal.

To keep this crazy idea out of our statutes, you might consider dropping Governor Kaine a note — at or by mail to Office of the Governor, 1111 East Broad Street, Richmond 23219; or Phone: (804) 786-2211, or Fax: (804) 371-6351 — and asking him not to sign SB 476.

Maybe you and I can help this national change process by stopping the NRA here; by showing we reject the insanity of all guns, all the time; because they can only lead to more dead bodies too much of the time.

And, by the way, my column on uranium may have indicated I favor unchecked use of coal as our main energy source. I do not. For us to take advantage of our 200+ years’ supply of coal, we must first find a way to make its gaseous products clean and non-polluting.

Nick Penning ( is an Arlington freelance writer.

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