Virginia will be enacting some kind of “assault weapons” ban soon. Bans really bother me. They’re generally not very useful, especially if the thing you’re banning is pervasive.

We got here for obvious reasons: I mean, we do have a gun violence problem. The thing everyone’s afraid of – mass shooters armed with AR-15 rifles – accounts for a considerably smaller number of deaths than low-cost handguns, but so what, a few deaths here and there in certain parts of town every single hour of the day are less relevant than the ones in the nicer parts of town. Those make for better news. Also if we addressed our suicide problem, we’d have to make the insurance companies pay for mental health treatment, which would make them less rich; and we’d have to accept people with mental illness are worthy of treatment, not jokes and scorn, and we’d have to confront our own demons.

At any rate, the problem overall with bans is our federal system makes them sorta dumb. We do the same thing right now with marijuana, and it works out exactly the same. Consider:

You live in a state, A,  with a complete ban on substance X. Next door and accessible via mass transit is state B, a state with full decriminalization of substance X.

Moreover, B has a robust and safe infrastructure for purchasing substance X. You just hop on the mass transit system, go to some object of interest right across the border, and a phone call and about an hour later, you have a quantity of substance X. And not just a ziplock bag with something in it you hope is substance X; you ordered a specific type with known, defined-up-front strength. It’s on the label, tested.

You pick up your product(s), then go back across the border. No one notices or cares, because you can’t really even legally buy a consequential amount. You aren’t allowed to buy a fucking kilo of substance X. The legal amount you can buy fits in a jacket pocket. There is no odor; it’s in a sealed package. As long as you wait until you get home, you’re just a regular citizen doing regular citizen stuff.

Firearms bans currently work like that, except for the extra effort of moving hunks of metal around.

So that’s problem A. It does reduce violence, to be sure, but thanks to straw purchases and general illegal behavior, it doesn’t stop the thing you’re trying to stop.

Problem B is the firearms community itself. Poisoned by the scum terrorists of the NRA and MAGA types, it became impossible to promote reasonable, effective nation-wide controls. So we get dumb local bans.

A lot of people were and are willing to accept a wide array of controls on firearms ownership. As an example, I think “assault weapons” should be controlled under the National Firearms Act: you should have to obtain special dispensation, so to speak, to obtain one. A more comprehensive background check and an extra fee are the primary indignation.

“Obviously this is the prelude to confiscation and disarmament”, said the same people who believe in black helicopters and FEMA camps, but don’t believe in climate change, and so nothing got done.

Thanks to their bullshit worldview, I get a ban. I can’t leave the state (as in, move away) for a bunch of reasons, probably not for a couple decades. So now I get nothing, instead of “whatever the fuck I want, within a reasonable framework to ensure public safety”.

Bans are of course predicated on legislative control. Virginia is currently a “purple” state, trending towards blue. We’re also an “old South” state who could have led the way in sensible legislation. Naw, the NRA – who, and I cannot stress this enough, are terrorists and racists – are headquartered here. But also, we might turn red next session. They’ll just overturn it. Congrats, you did nothing.

A final note about bans. Not everything is straw purchase of a complete firearm. You can just hop on the road, and a short drive away to a non-ban state next door, purchase all the geegaws for your AR you want. They take up a little more space but they’re just parts. They look like nothing; springs or a piece of plastic. You don’t need an ID to buy an AR15 trigger or collapsible stock. Then you just lark back across the border and assemble. Obviously you need the “gun part” – the lower receiver, thanks to our dumb firearms laws – but they’re freakishly cheap, even cheaper if you buy one that still needs a small amount of machining.

In summation. Bans are stupid and thanks to the NRA we’re getting them all over the place, which won’t really end the problem they’re trying to solve, which will just get us a bigger, more restrictive national ban eventually.

Postscript: Our true-blue Virginia legislators came in with 2 big agendas. One was the firearms ban and one was marijuana reform. They’ve already largely caved on the latter; it’s unlikely we’ll get even limited decrim. It’s entirely possible they’ll cave on the former, too. Also, thanks to the courts being utterly stacked with MAGA types, we can safely assume how challenges to bans are going to go.

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