Col. Massengill's Common Sense

Another prominent member of the nation's law enforcement community has spoken out for common-sense gun laws.

Col. Gerald Massengill, now retired as a Virginia State Police Superintendent, chaired the Virginia Tech Review Panel that studied the worst mass shooting in modern American history. According to his short bio on the Panel's Web site, Col. Massengill served the people of Virginia with distinction:

He led the state's law-enforcement response to the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon in Northern Virginia and the 2002 sniper attacks. Massengill retired in 2003 after 37 years in the Virginia State Police, and came out of retirement in 2005 to serve as interim director of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for 18 months.

On Monday, Col. Massengill made news by saying something that really shouldn't be controversial at all: "The thought ... of people losing their firearms is just something that Americans can't tolerate and quite honestly shouldn't. But on the other hand, we cannot allow the proliferation of guns to continue like they're continuing."

As Chair of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, Col. Massengill saw first-hand the effects of the damage done by a deranged shooter seven months ago. "I guess I'm one of those people who sees the devastation that firearms bring," he said in one report. "There's got to be reasonable checks and balances out there."

Col. Massengill describes himself as "a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights," someone who isn't in favor of gun bans or "of people losing their firearms." So what are the reasonable checks and balances on responsible gun ownership that he and the Review Panel proposed [pdf document] to help prevent another tragic shooting?

  • All states should report information necessary to conduct federal background checks on gun purchases.
  • Virginia should require background checks for all firearms sales, including those at gun shows.
  • The Virginia General Assembly should adopt legislation in the 2008 session clearly establishing the right of every institution of higher education in the Commonwealth to regulate the possession of firearms on campus if it so desires.

The Brady Campaign is proud to stand with America's law enforcement representatives like Col. Massengill who call for such basic requirements. None of these recommendations should be controversial. But even now - seven months after the Virginia Tech shooter murdered 32 people with guns he should never have been allowed to buy - the NICS Improvement Act of 2007 still languishes in the U.S. Senate. Why?

This bill will give states incentives to supply records of the dangerously mentally ill to the National Instant Background Check System. Senate leaders from both parties strongly support passage of the bill, including Virginia Sen. John Warner, and New York Sen. Charles Schumer. There is no reason this bill should be stalled another day.

We should urge Congress to make America's gun laws stronger. The Senate should pass the NICS Improvement Act as soon as possible, and send it to President Bush for his signature.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog and the Huffington Post.)