We talk a lot about guns in our home, which means we also talk a lot about safety. Coming from a military family, I learned about the responsibilities of gun ownership long before I ever held a gun for the first time. And like most gun owners, I talk seriously and honestly with my own children about the guns in our home and how we use them. I’m proud to be a responsible gun owner, and I am excited to teach my children how to shoot, just as my dad taught me when I was young. And just as I learned, safety always comes first.
Unfortunately, gun violence isn’t an abstract issue in Virginia, even for young children. My son practiced how to hide from a mass shooter in kindergarten and it feels like practically everyone knows someone who’s been impacted by gun violence. We’re more than six weeks out from the shooting in Virginia Beach that killed 12 people and wounded four more — the worst mass shooting so far this year. And what’s more, every 14 hours someone in Virginia dies by gun suicide.
My family has deep roots in the commonwealth, going back as far as some of the founding families. Virginians have much to be proud of, but our elected officials’ inaction on gun violence is shameful.
Most Virginians agree that we can do more to prevent gun violence while upholding the rights of responsible gun owners. But as we saw last week, lawmakers in the current statehouse have no interest in doing so. If lawmakers truly cared about our safety, they would have welcomed the opportunity to stand up for common sense and have a conversation. The legislature’s special session gave our representatives yet another chance to take meaningful action on gun violence in Virginia. Once again, they squandered the opportunity.
This is what the NRA wanted, and what it pushed for. Legislators who cater to the NRA often push the tired line that any commonsense gun safety measures are a threat to Second Amendment rights. But that’s simply not true — there’s so much we can do to prevent gun violence without treading on the rights of responsible gun owners. The NRA doesn’t speak for me or my family values.
The reports of inner turmoil at the organization — including ones about lavish spending on travel to the Bahamas and lucrative contracts awarded to friends of NRA executives — should make all of us question whose interests the NRA lobbyists are working for. Unfortunately, the special session’s outcome is a reminder that despite all of the pending investigations into the group, too many of our current lawmakers continue to buckle under NRA pressure.
As disappointing as it was to see the legislature adjourn so shortly after the special session began, there is a silver lining — Election Day is just mere months away. Every time there’s a shooting, lawmakers send their thoughts and prayers. But I’m here to show them what meaningful action looks like. I’m determined to elect candidates who represent the informed and reasonable values of so many gun owners, and once elected, will pass laws that keep all of us safer.
I’m joining so many other Virginians in making sure I know where candidates stand on gun safety and how they plan to vote on the issue. In the coming months, I plan to make calls, canvass and meet directly with the people who want to represent me and my family. And by November, I’ll know who has the heart to confront the shootings in our state and who doesn’t.
I’m counting down the days until I can cast my vote for those who agree there’s work to be done on gun violence. It’s not enough anymore to hope lawmakers will offer more than thoughts and prayers — they’ve had their chance to act and repeatedly failed. It’s time to elect candidates who aren’t afraid to run on a gun safety platform and show they have the courage to do something to protect the people of Virginia.