As a representative of the Virginia House of Delegates, I am compelled to address the concerns of the recent mass school shooting in Florida. As the authorities put together the pieces to determine what led to this horrific event I’m tasked with the responsibility of working to put legislation in place to ensure that the children and citizens of Virginia are safe. As a legislator I want to ensure that guns don’t get into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
I appreciate and value my right to bear arms. My husband is a law enforcement officer. I have a concealed weapons permit, and at times I carry a gun for safety. That being said, I do support a ban on assault rifles, as “assault firearms” are defined by Virginia code. I also want to bring attention to the fact that these assault firearms, unlike handguns, are capable of using armor piercing ammunition, which makes my husband and other law enforcement more at risk when they go to work to protect the community.
Since they are legal, I believe obtaining an assault firearm like an AR-15 should involve a more in depth process. As the age to buy a handgun is 21, the same age should be required to buy an assault firearm. I also believe a permit should be required, similar to the process of obtaining a concealed weapons permit. In addition, bump stocks should be banned. Bump stocks modify assault rifles to shoot the maximum number of bullets possible by using the rifles own momentum, and although many gun owners simply train to more effectively use the weapon, this additional speed is unnecessary, and in the hands of a shooter with malicious intent, downright dangerous.
Currently in Virginia background checks are required for those who buy a firearm from a dealer, but are not required for a private sale or transfer, commonly referred to as the “gun show loophole”. Additionally in Virginia, if your gun is lost or stolen you are not actually required by state law to report it. I believe these loopholes need to be closed.
I’ve taught in Virginia Beach public schools, and I would never have thought the idea of carrying a weapon to work would be a topic of conversation. However, it is a topic to explore- one that has already caused very intense discussions. My initial reaction to teachers being armed is that I would not want to be a sitting duck, as once law enforcement arrived on the scene, they would not be able to tell the difference between me and the shooter. At the same time, a constituent asked me, “Is it fair to deny teachers the right to carry a firearm for protection should they wish to exercise that right?” I do not claim to know the correct answer at this time, but I do know that my handgun is no match for an AR-15. Issues regarding school security measures vary from locality to locality, and I believe we must thoroughly explore all options to ensure the safety of our children.
As we discuss related concerns surrounding gun issues, we would be remiss to ignore the issue of mental health and gun violence. We must take into consideration that statistically, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of gun violence rather than the perpetrators. Although there are many factors that directly impact this issue I will not assign responsibility entirely to the mental health community.
We also cannot discuss issues of gun control without mentioning the issue of money in politics. Citizens should be certain that their lawmakers are representing them, not beholden to specialized corporate interests like the NRA. Until we can achieve campaign finance reform, and assure that corporations cannot use their money to outshout regular Virginians, we are unlikely to be able to make real progress on many of the issues that matter most to citizens like you.
Gun violence is a topic that we shouldn’t take lightly, and it will require input and engagement from citizens. I hope to have your thoughts and suggestions as we work to make Virginia a safer place. I will be traveling throughout the district to hear directly from you so that I can better serve this district and keep everyone safe.