You have to wonder if Victor Hamblett’s ears are burning.
The lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, who lives in Salem, chewed my ear for a while last month on a gun-control measure he believes is sensible: Limiting capacity of magazines for semi-automatic firearms to five bullets.
Hamblett called for a ban on higher-capacity magazines, and a government buyback of them. Lessened availability of those, he reasoned, could impede future massacre-minded gunmen — such as the ones who recently terrorized Virginia Beach; Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio — from firing large numbers of bullets before having to pause to reload.
The resulting Aug. 13 column elicited reader response on both sides of the issue. One I heard from was Chris Gregory of Roanoke, another lifetime NRA member and a local gun instructor.
“His solution is brilliantly simple and I don’t see a thing that could go wrong,” Gregory wrote. But I detected a whiff of sarcasm in the remainder of his missive.
“New Jersey has a similar ban, although they allow ten rounds and New Jersey makes possession of such magazines a felony,” Gregory added. “And of course, this ban [is] why no one has been shot in New Jersey since it went into effect.”
His point is that people have been shot in the Garden State despite that 2018 law. But does it necessarily follow that the statute is worthless? Must laws be judged on whether they successfully prevent 100% of a particular crime? By that yardstick, statutes against homicide, rape and drunken driving are worthless, too.
Another critic of Hamblett’s idea is John Cahoon of Roanoke.
“His observation that reduced magazine capacity will ‘cure this gun problem’ is absolute lunacy, will not work and cannot be made to work,” Cahoon wrote. “If one reduces the capacity of magazines for semi automatic weapons, then the shooter will simply carry more magazines. I can change out the magazine in my semi automatic 8 round pistol in ten seconds. I carry spares.”
And then there was Joseph Elligson of Roanoke.
“High capacity magazines will be available to criminals from the local street supplier who imports guns from Mexico and South America,” he wrote. “It is interesting that the answer is always remove guns from citizens while at the same time worshiping the movie, video and game companies for their award winning, extremely violent productions.”
Other readers, however lauded Hamblett’s suggestion. One was Mike Lubinski of Roanoke, who said he ditched his membership in the NRA after growing disenchanted with its leadership. His email began: “I am a gun owner and I love to shoot.”
“A smaller magazine doesn’t impair the functionality of the weapon for a sport shooter. You just change magazines and reload them more often,” Lubinski wrote. “In the two most recent mass shootings, where the police responded within literally a minute, a limited capacity magazine would have greatly reduced the death toll.”’
Doris Short of Roanoke agreed with Hamblett about magazines and Lubinski about the NRA.
“Very good column today, content and presentation both well done,” she wrote.”I am 84 years old and can remember when the National Rifle Association was a respectable and helpful organization. Maybe they will become one again once they rid themselves of current leadership.”
Another gun owner who likes Hamblett’s idea is Michael Howdyshell, a former Roanoker who now lives in Texas.
“I agree on magazines,” Howdyshell wrote in a text the day the column appeared. “I said exactly the same thing last week. It’s a no brainer.”
Two readers — Jim Marchman of Blacksburg and Charlie Brouwer of Willis — wrote and expressed dismay that the same day the column about Hamblett’s idea appeared, so did a full-page ad for a firearms training business. That featured a photo of a child.
“Is it ethical to ‘train’ a kid to use a weapon that he can’t legally purchase?” Marchman asked.
“What is anyone thinking? Running an ad like that when it has been barely a week since over 30 people were killed with weapons like that!?” Brouwer wondered. He added: “Cheers for the NRA members who are coming to their senses — and thanks for the story.”
The Aug. 8 column about former U.S. Rep. Richard Poff’s unmarked grave in Christiansburg culled fond memories of the late lawmaker. Those came from L. Elaine Neal, who used to teach at Lincoln Terrace Elementary school.
She first met Poff when she took her fifth-grade class to Washington, D.C. Later, when Neal decided she wanted to teach in France, Poff helped her get a job with a U.S. Army school there. She started in 1962.
“I was assigned to Etain Elementary School in Etain, France, where I taught for two years. I met my husband there. He was in the U.S. Air Force serving as an air police officer. We had just gotten engaged when President Charles De Gaulle said he wanted all Americans forces off French soil. My fiance was one of the first to go. I came back to be married in 1964.
“This assignment was soooooo special to me because my brother was in the army and fought the Germans on that very same base during World War II. . . . I always let Congressman Poff know how much he meant to me,” Neal wrote.
Last but not least, the Aug. 11 column about mouthwatering fresh tomatoes at local fruit and vegetable stands caught the eye of Ann G. Harrell. She’s the manager of the Catawba Valley Farmers Market.
“You missed us!” Harrell wrote. “The Catawba Valley Farmers Market is open on Thursdays from 3:30 to 7 p.m., at the Catawba Community Center. We have lots of homegrown tomatoes, many of them heirloom varieties, plus a wide selection of vegetables and fruits, also delicious baked goods, meats, crafts and so much more. All local; some of the vegetables are grown within a mile of the market.”
Noted. The market’s address is 4965 Catawba Creek Road. You can find out more at catawbafarmersmarket.com
Thank you, readers, for all the phone calls, emails, letters and texts. Please keep them coming!