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Virginia gun rights leader blasts Cuccinelli over GMU campus gun ban

To compare arch-conservative Ken Cuccinelli to Sarah Brady, who is virtually seen as the mother of the modern gun-control movement -- now those are practically fighting words among gun owners.

But that's exactly one of the shots Philip Van Cleave, the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, leveled at Attorney General Cuccinelli on Wednesday for the AG's defense of George Mason University's on-campus gun ban.

Van Cleave's email blast was entitled: "Et tu, Cuccinelli?"

In an open letter to the AG, Van Cleave criticized the legal brief Cuccinelli's office filed May 20 in Digiacinto v. The Rector and Visitors of George Mason University, a Virginia Supreme Court case concerning GMU's ban on guns in their library and other buildings, especially as it applies to non-students.

The brief gives a full-throated defense of GMU's right to ban firearms from the campus -- and then some.

In his letter, Van Cleave reminds the former Republican senator from Fairfax that when he came calling as a candidate at a VCDL meeting, Cuccinelli called the GMU ban "indefensible."

Although Van Cleave's letter says he was sympathetic to the Attorney General's duty as Virginia's top lawyer to defend the state school in court, Van Cleave also pistol-whips him for some of the brief's rhetorical flourishes, characterizing them as "gratuitous" and "fear-mongering" and even "Clintonesque" for making a " 'for the children' emotional argument"

The text of Van Cleave's letter, as included in his email to VCDL members and followers, is as follows:

Dear Attorney General Cuccinelli,

I am very disappointed in your brief filed with the Supreme Court in
reference to DiGiacinto v the Rector and Visitors of George Mason
University, which challenges GMU's gun ban in their library and other
buildings, especially as it applies to a non-student.

Since GMU is a state entity, I understand that the Virginia Attorney
General's office has to defend against this lawsuit.

As a candidate for Attorney General you said at a VCDL meeting on
December 18th, 2008 that GMU's gun ban was indefensible. (A link to
the video and a transcript are at the end of this letter.)

But what is really indefensible is the gratuitous, fear mongering
aimed at gun owners in that brief.

I can understand making your argument that the GMU ban is valid based
on some legal theory, since you are stuck defending GMU. The brief
does some of that, BUT the brief then goes clean off the reservation
into a gratuitous attack on gun owners, with a heavy does of fear
mongering and even squeezes in a Clintonesque "for the children"
emotional argument:

"Without the regulation [banning guns], the University community's
safety is seriously compromised. Unquestionably, the vast majority of
gun owners are law-abiding citizens. Nevertheless, a rejected student
applicant could walk into the Dean of Admissions office with an openly
visible sidearm to discuss why the university rejected his
application. An expelled student could do the same while he met with
the Dean of Students to discuss his appeal of his expulsion. A
disgruntled ex-boyfriend armed with a large hunting knife mounted on
his side could enter the student residences to speak to his former
girlfriend where she lived. Finally, any person who wishes to enter
Fenwick Library with a sidearm, could not only frighten students and
minors, such as preschoolers, but also expose them to unnecessary
risks, such as an accidental discharge"

That looks like something that Sarah Brady would write!

While you might not feel that you can win his case based on legal
merits, using made up, emotional scenarios to influence the Supreme
Court is unconscionable.

You ran a campaign on putting principles first. But all that fear
mongering in this brief has nothing to do with principles and
everything to do with winning the case AT ALL COSTS.

You were right the first time, Mr. Attorney General: principles DO
matter and that brief has thrown those principles in the trash.

Finally, the argument in the brief that colleges and universities are
"sensitive places" is not tenable. Truly sensitive places would be
guarded like a fortress - higher education schools are not, with the
public having easy access to them.

-- Fredrick Kunkle

By Fredrick Kunkle  |  May 26, 2010; 3:29 PM ET
Categories:  Fredrick Kunkle , Ken Cuccinelli  
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I used to belong to the VCDL but quit because of Van Cleave. The organization needs to review its leadership and determine if the leadership that they currently have is helping or hurting their cause. In the long run, Van Cleave is a liability to the objectives of the organization.

Posted by: ahashburn | May 27, 2010 4:54 AM | Report abuse

As a current member I wanted to know what you didn't like about Van Cleave? I have heard some complain about not giving in on some topics like extra fees to pay for background checks etc. Personally I have not had any bad experiences with VCDL. They are trying to make sure the govt. is respecting our rights. You have Cuccinelli saying one thing back then now another and he is being called on it. The "think of the children" mentality that all anti gun groups use should be stopped. The facts speak for themselves and for someone in Cuccinelli's position to resort to this tactic is very sad.

Posted by: jhaas68865 | May 27, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Yes, jhaas, the facts do speak for themselves, i.e., look at what happened at VA Tech. Please understand, guns will NEVER be outlawed in this country, Yet, any time a city, school, or park tries to ban guns in their particular location, the NRA's coffers get filled because they start screaming that your guns are going to be taken away (unless you send us money). Isn't it patently obvious that no one's gun is going to be taken away from them? It just ain't gonna happen. And, frankly, the demand to be able to carry a gun ANYWHERE or the demand to be able to buy any type of weapon or bullet only turns more people against the legitimate, safe gun owner who wouldn't think of committing a crime with his/her weapon.

Posted by: juliagraffam | May 27, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

why does anybody - especially a non-student - have to have a gun on a college campus anyway?

Posted by: hohandy | May 27, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Lets see, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Luby's cafeteria. These are places where people came in and started to slaughter others who were not able to defend themselves. The people who did this were definitely not right in the head. So why should someone fear of guns trample on my rights and ability to defend myself? I have gone through the LA riots, seen what has happened in New Orleans after Katrina and read the news as far as murders attacks etc. That's why I want to be able to carry a gun anywhere. I would rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it.

Posted by: jhaas68865 | May 27, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I have to say I proud of what the VCDL has done and that it is doing. I personally feel a debt of gratitude for all that Van Cleave has done. That he would call out Ken or anyone else when they cross the line is what makes him great. He is indeed a strait shooter.

Posted by: DontTreadOnMeVa | May 27, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I respected him as soon as he talked about the people running and who won and who lost. He talked about having good and bad Dems and Repubs. For gun rights admitting that you may not agree with the party on everything for certain issues you may have allies on the other side of the aisle.

Posted by: jhaas68865 | May 27, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

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