A year ago this morning, 20 first-graders and six staffers were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut by someone who should not have been entrusted with weapons. Afterward, Congress wouldn't pass even the most popular of gun safety proposals, such as expanded background checks for gun buyers.
When Congress failed to act, many state legislatures did. Twenty-one states passed gun safety laws this year, reports the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign. Even Florida, Missouri and Texas, states with historically weak gun laws, moved toward gun safety legislation.
But not West Virginia. The West Virginia Legislature went cravenly in the opposite direction, actually weakening gun regulation in the months just after the Sandy Hook tragedy.
West Virginia gets an "F" on the latest scorecard from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign, named for former White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was shot during an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
This year, the Legislature passed two laws to ease the flow of guns throughout society. One exempts concealed weapon permit holders from background checks, among other things. The other provides automatic reciprocity with concealed weapon permits from all other states.
The scorecard also faults West Virginia for many things, including not requiring a background check before a firearm is transferred between unlicensed individuals; not regulating the transfer or possession of assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles or large capacity ammunition magazines; and not requiring owners to register firearms or report lost or stolen guns.
West Virginia is a favorite gun supply stop for criminals. In 2009, West Virginia supplied the second highest number of crime guns to other states per capita, according to the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
This issue is not about frontier heritage or rugged individualism. It's not even about a dispute over the interpretation of the Second Amendment, although all those elements are present.The real concern is money. People make a lot of money manufacturing and selling weapons and ammunition. Fomenting fear and distrust among good citizens is just good marketing. It boosts demand for the product. And if 20 first-graders are occasionally slaughtered in their school desks because the product falls into unstable hands, enough of society has concluded that such a tragedy is simply the cost of doing business.