Mark Holmberg on the one handgun a month law

RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) -  January, 1993, on the old McDonald’s parking lot on Broad Street at Belvidere in downtown Richmond.

Security guard Isham Douglas Draughn III wades into a late-night crowd of 200 or so and someone shoots him in the back of the head with a pistol.

It was pandemonium. Responding police turn the dogs loose. Young people trying to flee trample a fence. Even though there were lots of witnesses, it took a long time to solve the case.

Like most homicide victims, Draughn was killed by someone firing a handgun – easy to conceal and very effective.

Two months later, GovernorL. Douglas Wildersigned the one-handgun-a-month law, named partly for Isham Draughn.

It was designed to slow handgun violence and the flow of pistols into the hands of criminals, particularly into other states by illegal gunrunners stocking up here and heading to DC and New York, just like they do now with our cheap cigarettes.

That year, Richmond’s murder rate went down slightly to 112.

But the next year, 1994, it shot up to 160.

It didn’t start going down significantly until 1998.

And the law didn’t appear to have a major effect on bulk gun runners, since we still hear New York mayor Michael Bloomberg complaining about the river of weapons flowing from Virginia.

But let’s remember Richmond’s murder rate is a third of what it was then – 39 last year. Yes, it’s a complex combination of factors, perhaps most importantly changing demographics.

And remember, gun enthusiasts with clean backgrounds can still buy all the rifles and shotguns they want from dealers and gun shops. The handgun a month law also doesn’t apply to those with concealed carry permits.

And anyone can buy as many pistols a month they want from other collectors and private sellers.

Those who want to repeal the law argue there are so many loopholes it’s meaningless. That’s almost true, in part because the gun lobby asked for loopholes.

Supporters of reversing the ban also say the only people it effects are law abiding citizens.

It don’t agree. I see folks buying cases of cigarettes here to sell on the black market. I know there’s the same market for handguns.

This law may not work perfectly, but I’m sure it has helped.

I remember all-too well what it was like when we were having 100-plus murders every year. I was nearly killed back then by one someone who put a pistol to my head in anger.

Supporters of overturning this ban say it won’t add to gun violence.

I’m not willing to take that chance.

That’s my take, share yours on WTVR.com.

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