More Virginians died from gun violence in 2017 than were killed in vehicle accidents. They died from guns at a rate of almost three people per day. Nearly 2/3 of these gun deaths were suicides, and the majority of suicides in Virginia were committed with guns. Nationwide in 2017, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 12 gun deaths per 100,000 people, the highest rate since the mid-1990s.
Governor Northam has repeatedly sought sensible rules for gun ownership, storage, and use in order to reduce the number of Virginians lost to gun violence. As a military physician, he has “seen firsthand what a bullet can do” to a person. But the Republican majority in the Virginia General Assembly has killed his bills in committee; none has ever come up for a vote in either the House of Delegates or the Senate. After the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center in May that killed twelve people and injured four more, Governor Northam called a special session of the legislature to consider a new package of proposals for curtailing gun violence. It is to convene on July 9.
The Governor wants the legislature to require universal background checks– checks in all gun sales, not only those made by gun dealers. The Governor is also seeking a ban on assault weapons and silencers. He wants adoption of a “red-flag” law like that adopted in Florida after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. These laws enable the police or relatives to petition a court to temporarily remove weapons from the possession of someone exhibiting signs of dangerous mental instability. Even Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham has expressed support for these laws at the state level. Over a dozen states have now adopted them.
The governor also urges reinstatement of Virginia’s rule limiting a person to the purchase of one gun per month. Before 1993, Virginia was a primary source of guns used in crimes throughout the Northeastern part of the country. Then Virginia enacted a one-gun-per-month law that eliminated bulk gun sales. The law remained in effect until 2012, and during this time the percentage of Virginia-sold guns used in Northeastern crimes fell precipitously. In addition, Northam’s legislative package would include rules limiting children’s access to guns, require reporting of lost or stolen firearms, and expand local authority to regulate the presence of guns in government buildings.
These are specific, targeted measures that would reduce the horrific toll of gun violence in Virginia without unduly infringing on safe and lawful gun ownership. All of the proposals have been adopted elsewhere and proved helpful in making communities safer. None of these proposals interferes with Second Amendment rights under any reasonable reading of the Constitution. The General Assembly should adopt all of them in its special session.
What can you do?
Right now, you can tell Arlington’s representatives in Richmond that:
“Virginia needs to address the gun violence that destroys so many lives in our state. In the special session, please support all of Governor Northam’s proposed gun-safety measures.”
You can reach Arlington’s representatives at:
- Delegate Patrick Hope - DelPHope@house.virginia.gov
- Delegate Mark Levine - DelMLevine@house.virginia.gov
- Delegate Alfonso Lopez - DelALopez@house.virginia.gov
- Delegate Rip Sullivan - DelRSullivan@house.virginia.gov
- Senator Adam Ebbin - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Senator Barbara Favola - email@example.com
- Senator Janet Howell - firstname.lastname@example.org
This summer and fall, you can help flip control of the General Assembly in the November elections. Democrats are only two seats shy of control in each chamber. You can volunteer to help elect Arlington Democrats to represent us in Richmond or to help with Democratic General-Assembly campaigns in other parts of the state with Beyond Arlington.