Special Session on Gun Safety
July 10, 2019
Yesterday, I arrived in Richmond for the Special Session hopeful and excited. I believed the time had finally come for lawmakers to act on legislation that would make the Commonwealth safer. But, I was wrong.
Passionate and articulate advocates from across the Commonwealth implored lawmakers to “Take Votes and Pass Laws.” Representatives from Moms Demand Action, Brady Group, Giffords, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, March for Our Lives, Network NoVA, and many others came to Richmond with compelling stories, real solutions, and a willingness to work across party lines. Thank You. Unfortunately, these pleas fell on deaf ears. The swift adjournment without any debate or votes on common-sense gun safety bills felt undemocratic and unworthy of the Virginia way.
Although we lost the legislative battle, there is always a new day. That new day is November 5 - Election Day! Lawmakers can and must be held accountable for their actions. Let’s double our efforts to ensure that those elected this November stand with us on the important issue of curbing gun violence.
The gun safety bills introduced by Democrats, at the request of Governor Northam, were evidence-based. These proposals had earned track records for improving safety. In fact, some of these bills had received “off the record” nods of approval from our Republican colleagues, but the courage to act in an election year was not there.
The bills sponsored by the Democrats addressed such issues as:
universal background checks,
extreme risk protection orders,
bans on assault firearms, bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, & silencers,
restoring the one handgun a month restriction,
reporting a lost or stolen firearm,
granting local governments authority to regulate firearms,
protective order prohibition, and
child access prevention.
The extreme risk protection order or “red flag” bill, a bill that would have enabled a judge to remove a firearm under certain conditions, was very similar to a bill signed by Republican Governor Rick Scott in Florida after the Parkland shooting. Universal background checks were recommended by the bipartisan commission Governor Kaine formed after the tragedy at Virginia Tech. The large capacity magazine ban, federally enacted in 1994, resulted in a clear and significant decline in the percentage of crime guns equipped with large capacity ammunition magazines. These bills merited discussion, debate, and recorded votes.
I have heard from so many of you who support common sense gun safety legislation because you want to prevent gun violence and decrease the number of shootings in our communities. Like you, I do not want gun violence to become the new “normal.” Our sense of safety and freedom already feels violated. Our children are going through “lock-down” drills in their schools and suffering the emotional effects associated with such exercises. Enough is enough.
As you know, Republicans control both the House of Delegates and the Senate. They came prepared with parliamentary moves meant to avoid reckoning with gun safety altogether. Instead of casting votes on any bill, they all voted to adjourn. This one vote loudly proclaims their allegiance to the NRA and their continued support for the status quo in Virginia. It is obvious that Republicans in both the House of Delegates and Senate remain completely satisfied with a status quo that has enabled too many mass shootings, too many domestic violence murders, and too many children gunned down.
The gun lobby sent out a message to their supporters yesterday that begins “(t)oday was a good day…” Join me in making November 5th a good day for us. Donate what you can, dollars raised will support candidates willing to fight for common-sense gun safety laws.