Finding Answers to One of Our Greatest Challenges

Finding Answers to One of Our Greatest Challenges

Earlier this week I spoke to an audience of people who I am sure are totally committed to the government taking actions to meet one of the greatest challenges we face in this country — the scourge of gun violence. As one who has worked on this issue for decades, I would like to have a simple answer, a plan, or action that would move us from the position we are in as a nation to more of the status of the other developed countries in this world who do not have nearly as much gun violence. We stand proudly as a nation behind the rule of law as embodied in our Constitution, but yet we allow a misinterpretation of one of its provisions to allow the carnage of children and others using weapons of war. 

Our Founding Fathers did not have this in mind. They simply provided for the defense of our country with a militia that is a concept outdated with our standing army.

I could not offer encouragement with what is now happening in the U.S. Congress. The bipartisan plan now being discussed is far from perfect, but it is a start if it can hold together long enough to get a vote in the Senate. There have been too many times when the discussions fall apart at the end when the gun lobby applies its pressure to legislators who do not have the will or the resolve to go forward with legislation that would save lives. Gun safety legislation would cost the gun manufacturers some profit, but there are no laws or constitutional provisions that promise profits to those who live off the death and destruction of individuals and families.

What is clear to me is that there is no one solution. The problem is multifaceted and the solution must be as well. Recently the New York Times and the Washington Post in separate articles looked at what the effect the passage of proposed gun safety laws would have had on the mass murders of the past. There is no law that would have prevented all or even a majority of the killings. The writers found that some of the killings might have been prevented had some of the laws, like a ban on assault weapons, been in place; even a ban on persons under age 21 being able to buy an assault weapon would have helped.

Virginia made major steps forward addressing the gun violence issue when Democrats controlled both houses of the General Assembly and the governorship. Major laws were passed, including my bill for universal background checks, granting rights to localities to ban weapons in certain places, and one of the earliest state red flag laws. When Republicans took over the House in 2022 there was an effort to roll-back this progress, but that effort was thwarted by the Democrats who continue to control the Senate by a slim margin.

My other observation is that progress on resolving this issue is not made by forceful arguments or effective lobbying. It is resolved at the ballot box by electing people of courage with the will to pass the several laws that are necessary to reduce gun violence.