Virginia gun safety laws save lives. Don’t weaken them. – The Virginian-Pilot
My current wife and I were at her wedding dress fitting in downtown Charlottesville when white supremacists attacked our community in 2017. My wife is Jewish. I was deeply concerned for her and for the city as armed extremists chanted hate speech through the city streets, brandishing guns. It was clear that the situation could turn deadly – and it did.
At the time of the Unite the Right attack, localities in Virginia were prohibited from enacting local measures to protect their cities from armed extremism. Even after the attack on our city, the General Assembly failed to pass legislation allowing local officials to pass public safety ordinances.
Then, in 2019, 12 people were fatally shot in a Virginia Beach municipal building. The legislature called a special session to address gun violence – but it came to nothing. After that, Virginians had had enough and elected a gun-sense majority in both houses in November. Over the next two years, lawmakers enacted a series of gun safety reforms. Among these was a law allowing localities to ban firearms in sensitive spaces.
But despite the Unite the Right attack, despite the lives taken in Virginia Beach, and despite the recent murder of two police officers at Bridgewater College, weakening our gun laws was a top priority for the gun lobby. This year. Fortunately, our gun-savvy majority in the Senate defeated that effort and stood up for the safety of Virginians.
Charlottesville and surrounding Albemarle County, where I live and work, have enacted gun safety ordinances, alongside 14 other communities in the state, covering more than 2.8 million Virginians. Yet three delegates representing my riding voted for repeal, as did delegates representing constituents in Blacksburg, Loudoun County and Petersburg. All three are communities that have enacted gun safety ordinances.
The House also voted to repeal other common-sense laws passed since 2020, including a law that allows the courts to temporarily disarm people in crisis, a reform of our background check system, a requirement for property owners guns to report lost or stolen guns to police, and a gun ban at the state capitol. Senate lawmakers succeeded in defeating these bills, along with other dangerous priorities of the gun lobby.
Gun Sense lawmakers have championed bills that garnered bipartisan support to create a Virginia Center for Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention, which would serve as a hub for data, research, coordination and funding around of the prevention of armed violence. The state budget proposal also includes funding for gun violence interruption programs. These efforts help address the main roots of gun violence and address the problem with a public health approach.
“Gun violence” is not just in our cities or the mass shootings that make national headlines; it’s also the veteran with PTSD who commits suicide with a gun, a boy who unintentionally shoots himself after grabbing his father’s gun from a bedside table, a woman who is shot by her attacker, a person in crisis who shoots himself and kills himself with a gun.
For the countless victims, survivors and communities scarred by gun violence, these debates in the halls of power and on the campaign trail are not just for show; these laws are literally a matter of life and death.
The gun lobby has done its best to repeal the basic gun safety laws that keep our Commonwealth safe, but thanks to the work of volunteers from Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, as well as other gun safety advocates and the fervent dedication of gun sense legislators, they missed.
Now is the time to look to the future – to continue to fight for common sense gun safety measures and to elect gun sense candidates at all levels, to reject the attempts of the gun lobby to undermine gun safety and build on the work to ensure Virginia is a safer place for all of us.
mike fox is the State Legislative Officer for the Virginia Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.