Virginia state house delegate Joe Morrissey (D) raised eyebrows on Thursday when he brought an assault rifle and other weapons to an afternoon press conference at the state capitol. According to Richmond, VA's CBS Channel 6, Morrissey was displaying an AK-47 rifle and a brace of other weapons he would like to see banned in the state.
“Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution did it say that someone can carry an AK-47 and walk down the middle of the street with it,” he said.
Morrissey was using the weapons to make a point as he introduced new legislation that would ban the sale, transfer, barter or import of assault rifles, as well as ammunition magazines that hold 20 or more rounds. He would also make it illegal to buy and sell guns at gun shows in Virginia, where background checks on gun buyers are rarely, if ever, performed.
Gun enthusiasts, said Morrissey, "may be angry and might not vote for me. That is ok. We’ve got to do something. Action is required."
Philip Van Cleave, however, an outspoken pro-gun lobbyist and president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said that any restrictions whatsoever on the sale and trafficking of firearms is a dire infringement on citizens' rights.
He sees the wave of proposed gun safety measures that have followed the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School as pure opportunism on the part of liberals.
“What has put us at a disadvantage is that there are so many anti-gun bills versus pro-gun bills,” Van Cleave said. "They’ve seen this as an opportunity to take advantage of some dead children to push forward a political agenda.”
In the immediate wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, while many gun-lovers were keeping mum, Van Cleave leapt into the fray, saying, "Sometimes you just have to get out there and just put these things out there. I'm not a big fan of political correctness."
Van Cleave never leaves his house without a gun, saying being unarmed makes him feel "helpless."
"A handgun is an equalizer," he says. "Without one, it's the law of the jungle. The big and the mean will run roughshod over the small and the meek."
The Virginia Citizens Defense League, which is supported by mostly Republicans in the state house, has spent the last two decades chipping away at the state's gun laws.
"Every year we've gotten something passed and moved the ball forward," said Van Cleave. "I don't know what will happen this year, but we're going to push and I'm hoping we'll get the ball moved forward again. It may not be a mile, but who knows?"
Morrissey knows it's unlikely his ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines will pass in the state house. Gun-lovers "don’t want to see this bill make it to the floor of the house to have legitimate debate,” he said. "The public needs to know that."
The lawmaker's proposals do not apply to law enforcement personnel and would not outlaw handguns. Morrissey said that he believes that assault weapons do not belong on the streets, but only on a military battlefield.
Watch video about this story, embedded via CBS 6, below:
[image via Shutterstock]