by Annette Hyde, Candidate for Senate District 24
Four-year-old Cole James Clark found a loaded handgun at the Orange County, Virginia home daycare (near my home in Madison) where he was being looked after in May 2017. He fatally shot himself, dying five days after his fourth birthday.
The gun belonged to Nicholas Joseph Stoia, the fiance of the daycare provider, Heather Christine Massey. At the time, Stoia was a Stafford County sheriff’s recruit in training. He was placed on administrative leave and later terminated. The gun was not a service weapon, and Stoia was not at the home when the shooting happened. Both he and Massey entered plea deals in early 2018 and were given probation.
Virginia law currently prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm in a manner that endangers the safety of any child younger than 14, and it is a Class 3 misdemeanor. Cole’s mother has said that she never thought to ask about firearms in the provider’s house.
My opponent in the 24th Senate District, Sen. Emmett Hanger is the 23-year Republican incumbent. He introduced SB 1321 in this General Assembly session. This is the text. Note the bold italic.
“Licensed family day homes; storage of firearms. Requires that firearms and ammunition in a licensed family day home be stored in a locked closet, cabinet, or container during the family day home’s hours of operation unless they are being lawfully carried on an individual’s person. The bill requires that the key or combination to such locked storage places be maintained out of the reach of all children in the family day home.”
Back in the mid-80’s when my older son was in a home daycare, if I saw that anyone in the house was carrying a gun or knew they had guns, my son would not be there, period. It makes no difference whether you can lawfully carry a gun or not, that gun should not be around young children. What if a person forgets about the gun while carrying a child on their hip and the gun goes off? What if a person is not looking and a child removes the gun from the holster?
How is it that we disallow guns at schools but it’s all right at a home daycare? Why would it ever be okay to not have a sign at the front door saying, “There Are Guns In This House,” so that a parent could consider that as a selection criteria? Would you let your child be there? Who is monitoring current providers versus the existing law? How is it that the situation described above is anything less than involuntary manslaughter?
Should a daycare provider be allowed to conceal the presence of guns from prospective parent-customers? Businesses have to post all sorts of legal statements in plain view already. Shouldn’t this be another one?
How is probation the right outcome here? Both Stoia and Massey should have received jail time.
Would you put your child into a home daycare where there are guns?
How many children have to die before we fix this?
Sen. Hanger is extremely proud of his A+ rating with the NRA and pleased that he is Co-Chairman of the General Assembly’s Sportsman Caucus. I am proud to be a founding member of the Culpeper-Madison-Orange Chapter of Moms Demand Action, and I’m running for the Virginia Senate to send him to retirement. I believe in Second Amendment rights, but I also believe that gun owners should responsibly store their guns away from children and that those who don’t be held accountable on felony charges.
The Republicans currently have a 21-19 majority. It will take just two seats in the Virginia Senate to flip it to Democratic control in the November 2019 elections. We can then pass effective, common sense gun safety laws in 2020 instead of having them buried in committee.