When police entered the home of Michael W. Kennedy, the youth who shot Detective Vicky Armel to death at the Sully District Police Station, they found nine guns, several of which were loaded, a bayonet, ammunition and knives all lying around the house. There were still other weapons locked up in cabinets.
Michael Kennedy had on his person an AK-47 style assault weapon, a high power hunting rifle and five handguns when he drove to the police station, where he fired 70 rounds of ammunition, killing Armel and seriously wounding Officer Michael Garbarino.
In addition, at his home police found records of his mental illness and attempts to get treatment, including a file from 4/26/06, labeled “mood disorder documentation,” from Prince William Community Hospital. There were also records of his treatment at Woodburn Center, in Fairfax, and he had just checked in and then immediately left the Potomac Ridge Behavioral Center in Rockville, Maryland a week ago.
There had been a decade long ban on high power assault rifles exactly like the kind that killed Armel and seriously wounded Garbarino. Then two years ago, President Bush and a Republican Congress let that ban expire despite the nationwide warnings of police chiefs. As the Washington Post said in an editorial,
“Two years ago, nationwide police chiefs tried to convince Congress to renew the ban and they made the point that these are not weapons that hunters ever need for their sport. And no mentally ill person should ever have such easy access to these types of guns.”
In addition, the Post pointed out that since the ban expired, 44 people have been killed with assault weapons and 38 others have been wounded.
It would be easy to just blame Bush and the federal government. But the truth is, Virginia too can do something. We don’t have to wait for the federal government to craft sensible legislation that respects the rights of hunters while protecting the police and public from deadly attack. No legitimate hunter needs an AK-47 or a bayonet. Can sensible people at least agree on that much? Or is the NRA’s influence so complete and our political leaders so cowardly that the art of sensible compromise is now completely beyond them?