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We must do more

Editorials

6/7/2019, 6 a.m. | Updated on 6/10/2019, 11:02 a.m.
What does it take to tighten gun laws in Virginia? How many people have to die before the Virginia General ...

What does it take to tighten gun laws in Virginia? How many people have to die before the Virginia General Assembly takes action to curb the violence in our communities?

The tragic shooting death of 9-year-old Markiya Dickson at a cookout on Memorial Day Weekend at Richmond’s Carter Jones Park upset people throughout the metro area. That was followed by the horrific massacre of 12 people last Friday at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, which rocked communities across the state and nation.

People are doing their best to come to terms with these senseless acts of violence. Yet, year after year and tragedy after tragedy, the same questions are raised by people seeking laws to stop the needless proliferation of weapons and the desire to return a sense of safety to our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and houses of worship.

But because of the deep pockets and insidious influence of the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers, Virginians are still waiting for change. Even the most rudimentary efforts to strengthen Virginia’s gun laws are stonewalled in the General Assembly or killed by conservative Republican forces that seem more wedded to the rights of gun ownership than to the need to protect human life. We are left to ponder who is the more wicked — those who pull the trigger or those who have the power to help stop the atrocities but don’t?

We believe Gov. Ralph S. Northam is right when he says, “We must do more than give our thoughts and prayers. We must give Virginians the action they deserve.”

We endorse Gov. Northam’s call for a special session of the General Assembly to specifically address gun control. We are tired of the GOP thwarting basic efforts that we believe will help protect our communities. Those include universal background checks for gun purchases; banning assault weapons and bump stocks, such as the type used in the Las Vegas massacre in October 2017; banning silencers and high-capacity magazines, such as those used by the Virginia Beach shooter; and taking guns out of the hands of those deemed a risk to the public because of mental illness or past violence.

In a special session, Republicans won’t be able to hide in committees and subcommittees as they torture logic and oppose common sense gun control legislation. The voters of Virginia need to see just who is for gun safety and who remains inert after these gun tragedies.

We find GOP arguments to be ludicrous as the party whips up conservative blowback against holding a special legislative session and strengthening Virginia’s gun laws.

House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican from Colonial Heights, bristled at the governor’s call, noting a special session is unlikely to produce any substantive change. Instead, he said the GOP would introduce its own measures aimed at tougher penalties for those who use guns to commit crimes, including mandatory minimum sentences, which Gov. Northam opposes.

Additionally, the Republican Party of Virginia issued a statement accusing the governor of trying to politically capitalize on the Virginia Beach tragedy and deflect public attention from his blackface scandal.