If We Want Gun Safety in Virginia, We Have to Flip the General Assembly
Enough is enough. This past weekend, two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio occurred within half a day of each other. With the death toll rising to a staggering 31, we must again face the realization that our collective lack of gun control continues to ravage our nation.
By the numbers, we have had more than one mass shooting per day this year. This is not a reality that we have to continue to live with. We know that there are proactive steps that we can take to curb the needless violence that is plaguing our communities. This is about so much more than mental health and violent video games. This is about widespread access to military-grade weapons. The time for thoughts and prayers is over. Now, the time has come for us to be courageous in demanding that our legislators enact common sense gun safety legislation that prevents these tragedies from becoming a daily occurrence.
Earlier this month, the Virginia General Assembly convened for a special session to discuss gun control legislation following the deadly Virginia Beach Municipal Center shooting in May. The special session, called for by Governor Northam, was a real opportunity to usher in changes that will address gun violence in the Commonwealth. Instead, after 90 minutes of debate, the session was adjourned until November, without making any real progress towards reform. The people of Virginia deserve more from their legislators.
During this session, I co-sponsored eight common-sense gun safety bills. One bill, with 85% approval rate by Virginians, aimed to enact universal background checks. Another bill authorized Extreme Risk Protection Orders which will allow judges to order the temporary removal of weapons from individuals who are deemed to be an extreme risk to themselves or others as a result of a thorough police investigation. I also support the reinstatement of the one-gun-a-month law that Governor Doug Wilder enacted in 1993 to address the boom of illegal firearm sales in our region. This law was erroneously repealed in 2012 by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell.
Additionally, there was a bill that would prevent access to firearms by children, a bill that requires that lost or stolen firearms be reported, and a bill that would ban military-style weapons (to include suppressors, bump stocks, and high-capacity magazines like those used in the Virginia Beach shooting), are examples of legislation that we can establish today to curb the proliferation of mass violence in our communities.
One Republican lawmaker even introduced a bill that would prohibit the carrying of firearms and ammunition in government buildings, only to later strike the bill, saying that it was too broad. One of the bills that I co-sponsored also sought to ban guns from government buildings, by providing local jurisdictions with the authority to sanction these restrictions. We must demand more steadfast leadership from our elected officials on this issue. Through inaction, we are condoning gun violence that’s plaguing our Commonwealth and our Country. We have an obligation to act.
The comprehensiveness of gun safety legislation proposed by Democrats during the special session demonstrates an investment in enacting changes that both preserve Second Amendment rights while simultaneously protecting the public. That is why it is so important to turn out the vote and flip the legislature this November. We cannot continue to sit idly by while Republicans circumvent gun safety legislation to the benefit of gun corporations and to the detriment of our community. If we want our voices to be heard, we have to send legislators to Richmond who are committed to making us safe.