Saturday, January 16, 2021
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Lori Haas


Gun Violence Prevention “the political high ground”

Eight years ago, I got the phone call that no parent in America imagines ever getting. "I've been shot," my daughter told me. Emily was in French class that spring day at Virginia Tech, and had just been shot in the head by a young man who legally bought firearms and ammunition in Virginia despite the fact that seemingly everyone who knew him knew he was dangerously mentally ill.

I was one of the lucky ones that day. My daughter survived. Thirty-two other families had to bury their loved ones, denied even the chance to say goodbye.

Many in the commonwealth wondered if April 16, 2007, would be a turning point. Would this be the moment that our legislators finally rejected the National Rifle Association's fatal prescription and supported common-sense gun reforms?

Sadly, the immediate change we were hoping for did not come. But today, as the legislature weighs in on Gov. Terry McAuliffe's vetoes of three noxious pieces of legislation, it is clear that gun violence prevention has become a winning issue in Virginia.

McAuliffe was one of three statewide candidates who swept to victory in the November 2013 elections while publicly and proudly embracing a platform calling for tougher gun laws (along with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring). A few years ago, it would have been unfathomable for a Virginia gubernatorial candidate to announce at a televised debate, "I don't care what grade I got from the NRA," but that's exactly what McAuliffe did. And he won.

Now he's backing up the promises he made during his campaign. The bills the governor formally vetoed would have allowed loaded shotguns and rifles to be transported in vehicles, regardless of local laws; prevented Virginia law enforcement from sharing information about our state's concealed handgun permit holders with certain other states; and forced local law enforcement to provide a certification or denial for the transfer of a machine gun within 60 days. These bills were all designed to be handouts to the gun lobby, and none of them had anything to do with improving public safety. In fact, they would have done just the opposite.

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