I only counted about 3 potential escape routes from where I sat at the Virginia International Raceway during the Runoffs Racing competition. “That’s not enough. What if there are more than 3 shooters?” I thought to myself with a sense of terror.
I couldn’t stay focused on the drivers circling the racetrack. Instead, I found myself scanning the crowd looking for anyone who looked like they might have a chip on their shoulder. This summer I went to a dozen outdoor festivals and concerts and the same thoughts always crossed my mind: Am I safe? Can I outrun a bullet?
These thoughts make me angry. And I know exactly who to blame for making me feel this way. When will our elected officials get serious about passing sensible gun legislation? I’m not alone. Fifty four % of Virginians believe we need stronger gun violence prevention laws in the commonwealth.
The Virginia Tech shooting occurred over ten years ago. We watched on television as Republicans sent thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims. In May, a mass shooter claimed the lives of thirteen people in Virginia Beach. Same script. Conservatives sent thoughts and prayers while our communities awaited another catastrophe, hoping that no one we loved would be involved this time. Some politicians are even entertaining the thought of asking teachers to expand their duties as teachers to include becoming armed security guards.
Arming teachers is not only a ludicrous idea, but it also doesn’t get to the root of our problems. The only thing worse than expecting teachers to double as armed security is the inaction of our government officials. We deserve more. Our families deserve more. Our kids deserve more. We’re tired of empty promises. We want to see our elected officials take action.
Conservatives Continue to Obstruct Sensible Gun Prevention Legislation
During the 2019 General Assembly session, SB 1748 and HB 2492 would have banned high-capacity magazines and many assault-style weapons such as AR-15 rifles. The bills were killed on party-line votes when Republicans chose to follow the gun lobby’s lead instead of Virginians’ need for safety. Republicans say that they want to prevent mass shootings but their votes say otherwise.
It felt like a slap in the face when Senator Tommy Norment and Speaker of the House Kirk Cox adjourned the Gun Violence Prevention Special Session without voting on any legislation. Instead of producing policies that make our communities safer, they passed all the bills to the Virginia State Crime Commission for further research and consideration.
I’m not exactly sure what information they’re looking for. Gun violence claims the lives of 958 Virginia residents each year. That means that someone is killed with a gun every 9 hours in the state. How many families will be torn apart by gun violence while conservative politicians like Senator Tommy Norment, Speaker Kirk Cox, and House of Delegates Majority Leader Todd Gilbert cater to gun lobbyists and block common-sense gun violence prevention legislation?
Delegate Gilbert will go down in history for accepting the largest contribution ever made by the National Rifle Association to a Virginia political fund. The $200,000 donation from gun lobbyists is a guarantee that Gilbert will put the NRA’s interests above the interests of the 62% of Virginia voters who support reinstating the one-handgun-a-month law or the 49% of Virginia voters who say it’s too easy to buy a gun in Virginia. Don’t get me started on state Senator Amanda Chase who recently ran a Facebook ad warning sensible gun legislation advocacy groups that she is “not afraid to shoot” them down. This blatant disrespect of gun violence victims and survivors must stop right now.
Mass shootings aren’t the only reason we need stronger gun violence prevention legislation. In 2017, Virginia had the 32nd highest gun death rate among the states, with a gun death rate of 11.9 gun deaths per 100,000 persons—roughly the national average. What do we say to the parents of 15-year-old, David Godfrey Jr., a child shot and killed in Norfolk this summer by someone who obtained the gun due to loophole-ridden gun laws?
When we look back on history, we want to be able to say that we did all we could to curb senseless gun violence, but Republicans continue to ignore our communities and obstruct commonsense gun legislation at every turn. It’s obvious that Republicans care less about what Virginians want, and more about receiving funding from the gun lobby.
Most Virginians support stronger gun laws in the commonwealth. No one should live in fear of going to the race track or anywhere else. We come together in action to make safe and healthy communities a reality for all of us––no exceptions.
This November, we can finally take action on gun violence prevention. Check out the Virginia Progressive Voters Guide to see who’s running in your area that supports common-sense legislation like universal background checks, prohibiting abusers to access firearms, and banning assault rifles. Don’t forget to vote on November 5th!
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