by Virginia House Democratic Leader David Toscano
Americans continue to wake up to increasingly disturbing incidents of gun violence and death. Videos capture two horrific police killings of black men during what appear to be routine stops, destroying families while sowing fear throughout communities where some citizens worry about their next chance encounter with officers with badges and guns. It should not be this way; police departments around the country are implementing policies to bridge divides between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Nonetheless, when events like those in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis occur, it shakes the confidence of all communities, which only time and serious efforts will restore.
And in Dallas, we witnessed, in real-time and on social media, the shocking carnage brought on by a deranged sniper in possession of a high-powered rifle. Like many of you, I have police officers in my family, people who joined for all of the right reasons. The risk to their lives and families every day they go to work is more apparent than ever before. And the incident begs the question—can anyone seriously argue that the killer should have had a right to this type of weapon, an AR-17 Assault Rifle?
As we grieve and pray for the families of the victims, we rightfully search for answers. As policy makers, we continue to support measures to decrease gun violence, such as universal background checks, and better screening to ensure that those whose mental illness threatens others do not get easy access. We will support vigorous prosecution of officers who break the law and destroy families and community cohesion under the guise of enforcement.
But solutions must go deeper than just changing our laws. We must dial down the hate in our country, reduce the decibels of dissension and disagreement, begin listening more carefully to each other, and attempt to understand more what it is like to be “the other,” whether that means putting ourselves in the position of a black man who is looked at askance simply because of his race, or a police officer who goes to work everyday not knowing what violence may await him or her.
Hopefully, another shocking week can serve as impetus to find common solutions that will make us safer.