by Susan Ahern Marusco
The father of a Chesterfield girl, Markiya Dickson, who was shot and killed at a Richmond park over Memorial Day weekend, was quoted in the Chesterfield Observer as saying the loss of his daughter motivated him to “focus his energies on getting the community to stop gun violence.”
Sadly, Markiya’s dad, Mark Whitfield, will learn fast that his own state senator, Glen Sturtevant, R-10th District, is one of the biggest obstacles to stopping senseless gun deaths traumatizing our community.
Sturtevant voted against almost all 30 bills Senate Democrats introduced this past General Assembly session to prevent firearms violence. And Sturtevant “voted for every bad gun-lobby bill in 2018,” according to Andy Goddard, who’s been monitoring legislation at the capitol after his son was painfully injured at the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
After Markiya’s gut-wrenching shooting, and after 13 people died at the horrifying mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Gov. Ralph Northam called for an emergency legislative session on firearms public safety this July. The governor is urging “votes and laws,” not Republicans’ usual “thoughts and prayers.”
The party line for Republican legislators is that laws can’t stop gun violence. That is false.
At the General Assembly’s 2019 session, Sturtevant voted down a bill requiring lost and stolen guns be reported. This bill could help law enforcement trace guns that end up at crime scenes, helping hold citizens responsible for firearms trafficking – perhaps even in the neighborhood where Markiya was shot.
Sturtevant also voted against limiting handgun purchases to one a month, which makes trafficking guns into neighborhoods harder and more expensive. Sturtevant voted not to limit high-capacity rifle magazines to 10 rounds. Since shooters could be tackled as they reload, magazine limits might have cut down on the high body count at the Virginia Beach rampage.
Perhaps hoping to portray himself as a moderate, Sturtevant voted for a bill allowing law enforcement to remove weapons from people found to be a danger to themselves or others, called an “Extreme Risk Protection” bill. However, Sturtevant, whose last campaign got about $56,000 from the NRA, introduced an amendment to the bill that focused more on protecting the civil rights of armed, dangerous individuals than on protecting the public. In the end, Sturtevant’s Republican allies killed the bill, like they’ve done every time an “Extreme Risk Protection” bill has been introduced in the Virginia legislature. What if an extreme risk law had been enacted, had identified the deranged Virginia Beach shooter and prevented his bloody rampage?
At July’s emergency session, Democrats are demanding a full floor vote on gun safety legislation so legislators like Sturtevant can’t kill bills in low-profile, GOP-dominated committee meetings.
Mark Whitfield, father to pretty Markiya, who loved giving hugs, was quoted in the Observer as saying he’s determined to stand up to gun violence: “I don’t want this to happen to no one else’s child. I’m going to fight for that.”
If a heartbroken father can stand up to gun violence, surely he can expect his representative, Sturtevant, to help him spare other parents the nightmare of losing a beloved daughter. Not the NRA’s or Sturtevant’s usual “help” of promoting mandatory minimum sentences (that typically hurt African-Americans), but by voting for gun-safety measures at the emergency session on guns. The county’s eyes will be on Sturtevant this July. Will he help Markiya’s father or help the NRA?