The gun control legislation being put forward by the new Democratic-dominated government of Virginia echoes and extends measures already implemented in other anti-gun and anti-Second-Amendment entities such as California, the city of Washington D.C., and many other jurisdictions. Their common feature is that they seek to demonize gun owners, in so many words, as threats to public safety and security simply because they dare to own - much less use - firearms. This even includes disparaging their mental health.
Those of us living in firearm-friendly jurisdictions have probably not given much thought to how our lives may change if such measures come to our region . . . but that's unwise. Demographic changes in our electorate, the incessant onslaught of anti-gun propaganda in the mainstream media and from the political left, and other factors, mean that we can't take our rights and freedoms for granted. Even pro-individual-rights, pro-Second-Amendment Supreme Court rulings such as Heller, McDonald and Caetano may be undermined or even overturned, if a liberal/progressive majority of judges are appointed to that body.
I'm not going to bother to list all the restrictions that inhibit firearms ownership and use in liberal/progressive jurisdictions. Anyone can look up the firearms laws of California, or Washington D.C., and see for themselves. There are also any number of articles, commentaries, etc. in firearms publications, discussing the situation. What I'd like to consider here are the practical implications of such measures in areas that are currently free of them, for the individual gun-owner. What can you and I can do to minimize their impact on us?
The first thing to consider is that firearms ownership as such will be demonized. This can, and probably will, include measures such as:
- Declaring firearms ownership a public health issue, and having doctors, educators and other practitioners ask intrusive questions of you, your spouse and your children (even in your absence) over whether or not you own guns;
- "Red Flag Laws" allowing authorities to confiscate firearms from anyone on the basis of allegations against them, which need not necessarily be proven before the firearms are taken (i.e. guilt is assumed, rather than demonstrated);
- Public "education" campaigns ascribing crime and violence to the mere presence of guns, whether or not a specific gun (i.e. yours) is used to commit a crime;
- Refusing to focus on the problem of criminality and individual responsibility for it, and instead ascribing crime to an unthinking object such as a firearm (i.e. "the gun made him do it", just as if a car forced him to drive drunk);
- Restrictions on the legal circumstances where it's permissible to carry and/or use a firearm for self-defense (including imposing a legal "duty to retreat" rather than defend yourself, even on your own property);
- Making it as difficult as possible to buy a firearm, and obtain official sanction to carry and/or use it, even for training or sport.
Next, the anti-gunners will try to make it as difficult as possible to introduce firearms ownership to non-shooters. They don't want people to know that shooting can be fun, as well as a useful tool in one's box. Therefore, look for restrictions on who may borrow a gun, and under what circumstances, or preventing a child from using a parent's firearm even under their supervision. That's a good way to ensure that those who don't know, won't be allowed to find out.
Another area of restriction is ammunition purchases and storage. California is perhaps furthest down this road at the time of writing, with a requirement for background checks before being allowed to purchase so much as a single round; no bulk purchases of ammo except through licensed dealers; and restrictions on private sales between individuals. Other states are considering similar measures. Another tactic that's receiving greater attention, and may become more of a problem, is limits on the amount of ammunition that may be stored in private homes, and restrictions on how it must be stored "for safety". These can be communicated as necessary for public safety (i.e. "firefighters can't be expected to fight fires in buildings that may contain dangerous quantities of ammunition!") or to prevent crimes ("criminals will steal the ammunition and use it to reload their guns!"). Look for them in HOA bylaws, local regulations, fire marshal requirements, etc.
You can also expect insurance companies to be co-opted by the authorities to assist in such efforts. (If you doubt that, consider that major banks have already been co-opted in this way.) What if your insurance company denied you coverage if you have more than a certain number of firearms, or a given quantity of ammunition, in your possession? What if the authorities track your purchases (easy enough to do, both through Form 4473 records of purchases from dealers, and from credit card records showing when and where you bought ammunition) and make that information available to insurers? What if insurers insist that if you won't provide that information, they won't cover you - and if, after a claim, it emerges that you've been untruthful or exceeded the limits they apply, what if they refuse to pay?
Any or all of those measures may be expected if your jurisdiction becomes more anti-gun. I fear many of us will find that out out the hard way in future years. The question thus becomes, what can we do about it? I wrote a few weeks ago about some measures we can take. I strongly suggest that you read that article, and implement those of its suggestions that are practical for you. Here are a few more ideas, over and above those.
First, make sure you've stockpiled as much ammunition as you reasonably expect to need for the foreseeable future, and can afford. Ammo is expensive, and therefore this may not be feasible for many people. That's something you'll have to decide for yourself. At the very least, I suggest you build up a stash of the really important ammo - i.e. purpose-specific rounds such as defensive hollowpoints or soft-point hunting cartridges - and store it securely.
As far as practice ammunition is concerned, this is essential, and in large quantities if you want to be serious about your use of firearms. However, such quantities may exceed legal restrictions, and they're very expensive. Therefore, look at cheaper (and more legal) alternatives. I've already discussed the use of .22LR weapons for training and defense, as well as BB and Airsoft guns. I strongly recommend that you read that article, if you haven't already done so, and plan on doing something similar. That doesn't only apply to handguns, either - see, for example, this article about "mini-sniping" with airguns (which is a wonderful sport and training tool, and can be done without high-end rifles or scopes, even in your own back yard in many jurisdictions.). I have .22LR revolvers, semi-auto pistols, lever-action rifles and semi-auto rifles. I use them to maintain my proficiency with their full-size, full-power brethren - but at a current cost of just 4c-6c per round, buying quality ammo in bulk (CCI's Mini-Mag, Standard Velocity or Blazer, or Federal's Automatch, are my go-to choices). That's many times cheaper than the full-patch stuff!
BB or Airsoft handguns are even cheaper to operate; less than 1c per round overall. You may not be able to afford 1,000 rounds of 9mm. ammunition every year for training, but you can probably afford 5,000 BB's every year, plus the gas cylinders needed to operate the "toy" gun that fires them! A BB handgun like this Umarex copy of the Smith & Wesson M&P pistol (shown below - that's what I currently use) will take care of many training needs at minimal cost - and it won't violate any local regulations or insurance conditions about firearms or ammo storage, either.
Some object that a BB or Airsoft weapon doesn't reproduce the sound or recoil of the "real thing", and it's therefore not fully realistic training. They're right - but so what? Trigger time is trigger time. If you can reliably, on demand, hit what you're aiming at, at realistic distances, with a low-power practice weapon, it won't take much time with a full-power weapon to replicate that skill. I train enough with full-power ammo that I have no qualms about defending myself - but I train a heck of a lot more with low-power stuff, because it's what I can afford, and it helps keep my basic skills honed. Realistic reproductions such as that illustrated above even let you practice draw-and-shoot, weapon retention, and other skills, just as you would with a full-power handgun. You can get BB gun versions of many popular handguns - see, for example, Umarex's product line - so the feel of the training gun approximates what you carry. What's not to like?
Even nicer is that one can use such weapons to teach others how to shoot, without violating local laws or regulations that may forbid handing them an actual firearm. They can get most of the basics right before needing or wanting to use the real thing. When that time comes . . . well, I'm not going to counsel anyone to break the law, for obvious reasons, but there are ways. A quick trip across state lines to shoot at a range over there, or with a friend, perhaps?
You may find some currently legal firearms or components are suddenly rendered illegal at the stroke of some legislator's pen. (Virginia's current shenanigans are a good example, where suppressors and large-capacity magazines - previously legal - are set to be banned.) You'll have to decide for yourself whether you're going to obey such restrictions. If you are, you'll probably need to get your soon-to-be-restricted items out of state, perhaps to a friend who'll keep them safe for you. You can use them there from time to time. If you prefer to keep them, be advised you may be putting yourself and your family in legal peril. Purchases can be traced through credit card records, etc. - even online photographs, as one New Zealand gun owner just found out the hard way. Suppressors are federally licensed and recorded, so yours will be on paper somewhere.
Expect anti-gunners to raid owners of such "evil" items, partly for public relations purposes, partly for their own entertainment. Plan accordingly - and don't expect to be able to conceal them easily. I've been part of prison search teams, and the cops also train for such things. Any easy-to-access hiding place you can think of can (and probably will) be found. Again, plan accordingly. (Also, don't lie to the authorities - that's often a criminal offense in itself. If you're asked "Do you have X, or Y, or Z?", and you do, don't answer "No" - you're setting yourself up for big trouble. Rather refuse to answer the question, and insist on your lawyer being present before you will. Your Fifth Amendment rights are there for a reason.)
You should also find locations where you can safely train with your weapons. If they involve firearms or accessories (e.g. magazines, suppressors, etc.) that are declared illegal, you can't take them to a regular gun range - the proprietors will almost certainly report them to the authorities, and/or call the authorities to drop by and confiscate them. (They'll have no choice in the matter. It'll be a case of "Cooperate, or we'll close you down".) As a useful general principle, scout around for areas of public land that are remote from dwellings or nearby activities, where it's legal to shoot, and where the noise of shooting won't attract undue attention. Remember, too, that wildlife agents and their ilk may be encountered when you least expect them. Also, watch out for surveillance from drones. They've already been encountered by shooters in wildlife areas in at least three states, to my certain knowledge. It's a cheap, easy way for Big Brother to keep an eye on remote areas - and those who frequent them.
Finally, for those who can afford it, it's possible to store a backup gun or guns at other locations. Friends, a place of work, a storage unit, a buried cache in a safe place (just make sure it really is a safe place) - whatever floats your boat. There are obvious security risks involved, and you don't want to put a friend in a position where he may go to jail because of your gun; so choose carefully and wisely. I know one individual who currently has no less than eleven such "backup stashes", involving both handguns and long guns, complete with magazines, ammunition, holster, accessories and cleaning gear for each one. All his "stash guns" are off-paper (i.e. bought privately for cash, with no records to indicate that he owns them). He may be a bit paranoid . . . but then, considering the state in which he lives, maybe he isn't. If things go to hell in a hand-basket, he fully expects to lose half to three-quarters of them (or, at the very least, be unable to access them securely and discreetly); but with so many caches, he's banking on at least a few of them remaining intact and accessible.
(If you go that route, plan on occasional "maintenance visits" to clean and check at least some of the firearm[s] concerned, and possibly to test-fire them and replace older ammunition with new supplies. Exercise caution and discretion when doing so, for obvious reasons.)
I invite readers to contribute their own suggestions in Comments. Please remember, it's illegal to encourage others to commit crimes, so be very careful how you phrase your remarks! You don't want to find yourself targeted for loose talk.