Gov. Ralph Northam called a special session of the legislature in response to the Virginia Beach shooting that killed 12 people and wounded four on May 12. On July 9, after only 90 minutes, the Republican-controlled General Assembly adjourned without the slightest consideration of the 60 bills that had been submitted in regular session.
Gun violence is not a single phenomenon, but includes many types of tragedies: domestic violence (averaging 50 women a month shot and killed by their partners), children killing children because a gun in the house was left unsecured, suicides (including many veterans), rampant gun trafficking (New York City has been complaining for years that guns bought in Virginia show up on its streets).
And then there mass slaughters of hundreds every year with military-style weapons, such as El Paso (22 killed, 24 wounded), Dayton (nine killed, 27 wounded), and Las Vegas (58 killed, 422 wounded).
Finally, there’s thoughtlessness in relation to guns, as when Nick Freitas tried to take his loaded pistol through security at Washington Dulles International Airport in 2013.
Now a state delegate, Freitas stoutly defended gun rights in last Sunday’s Culpeper Star-Exponent.
Bryce Reeves was proudly pictured firing an Army cannon.
Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Colonial Heights, wears her pistol on her hip in the Virginia Senate.
Speaker Kirk Cox gaveled the House of Delegates out of session July 9 without considering a single bill presented by Northam.
These are a few people among the many Virginia Republicans who continue to do absolutely nothing to address gun-violence tragedies.
The specious argument that mass murder is a people problem caused by video games, lack of prayer in school or the breakdown of the family is not supported by facts. If true, one would expect similar gun violence in other countries.
And if one suggests there is a national mental-health problem involving gun violence, that would require vast resources to address.
What jumps out in most of mass killings is the effectiveness of rapid-fire, military-style firearms with high-volume magazines.
The Dayton police force estimates the shooter fired more than 30 shots in only 30 seconds. He still had plenty of ammunition. The story in El Paso was even worse—rapid-fire, plenty of bullets, lots of dead and wounded. What do you think the death toll would have been if the Dayton, El Paso or Las Vegas shooters were armed with revolvers? Or knives? The obvious conclusion is that military-style rifles, ammunition and magazines are what makes such attacks so lethal.
Any combat veteran or doctor can tell you that military ammunition travels at such a high velocity that, in tumbling and tearing through the human body, its shock wave shreds organs and breaks bones, even if they’re not directly hit. Victims may require multiple subsequent operations to piece their bodies back together. Imagine what the Sandy Hook children looked like.
In order to calm a tsunami of criticism, President Trump and some congressional Republicans recently intimated they might look at background checks and red-flag laws, i.e., handling gun violence like a people problem. Does anyone have faith that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has taken up no meaningful legislation passed by the House this entire year, will do so in this case?
There is no way to get around the one indisputable fact in these mass shootings: Lethality belongs to the military-style assault weapon.
But our society is not defenseless. Volunteer with Moms Demand Action and other groups fighting to reduce gun violence. Educate yourselves. Lock up your firearms.
No politician in either party in Central Virginia wants to take away your guns, but something must be done to stop the killing. Vote for candidates who will address these problems, instead of mouthing platitudes and National Rifle Association talking points.
Elections have consequences. Vote on Nov. 5.
David Reuther, a retired foreign service officer, chairs the Culpeper Democratic Committee. These are his personal observations.
Editor’s Note: this op-ed originally appeared in the Culpeper Star Exponent and has been re-posted here with the author’s permission.
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