VIRGINIA Gov. Douglas Wilder's bid to reduce handgun sales in the state appears headed toward victory. If his plan to limit purchasers to one handgun a month passes, he will have at least mitigated Virginia's reputation as a major source of firearms for criminals in the Northeast.
At this writing, the proposal was headed for a conference committee of the state House and Senate to act on a compromise that would permit Virginia residents to buy more than one gun a month after background checks.
Governor Wilder's laudable initiative might well lessen the number of handguns bought in Virginia for use in criminal acts elsewhere. But as long as there is a market for weapons, handguns, or automatic rifles, lawbreakers will manage to borrow, steal, or purchase them.
As usual, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has branded Wilder's legislation an infringement on the rights of gun owners, saying in newspaper advertisements: "If they can limit you to one [gun], they can limit you to none."
In fact, the one-handgun limit is no more than a gesture, particularly in terms of national impact. Even in Virginia, a person buying one handgun a month could amass a relative arsenal of 12 such weapons within a year. The NRA's lament that virtually any limits on purchase and use of firearms infringes on the constitutional right (in the Second Amendment) of Americans to "keep and bear arms" wears thinner with every violent crime involving guns.
Organizations like Handgun Control, Inc., the organization that Sarah and James Brady joined after Mr. Brady, Ronald Reagen's press secretary, and the president were shot and gravely wounded by a would-be assassin, have the right motive and the right approach.
The nation needs rational, moral thinking and sensible action on this problem, even if it doesn't fit the interpretation of the "right to bear arms" held by the NRA.