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Opportunity for Public Comment to the Virginia Crime Commission

On Saturday, August 3rd, two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio again tore through communities and devastated our country. Again, a young, hate-filled man with access to assault weapons callously took the lives of innocent people. Among the 29 deceased were an 86 year old grandmother, a veteran, and a mother and father shielding their 2-month-old son. 

 

The shooting in Dayton, Ohio lasted less than 30 seconds. It claimed 9 lives. 

 

The shooter was carrying a firearm equipped with a 100-round magazine. 

 

Again we must grieve, again we must honor and remember the victims. Again we must rededicate ourselves to fighting to end gun violence. 

 

On August 20th the General Assembly Crime Commission is accepting public comments on the legislation introduced during the July 9th special session which the Governor ordered in the wake of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach. I will be attending to present my legislation that would ban assault weapons. Public comment signups to speak are not yet available, but I will update you when we receive information on how to register. 

 

Written public comment is also currently accepted and can be submitted to comments@vscc.virginia.gov or mailed to: Virginia State Crime Commission 1111 East Broad Street, Ste. B036 Richmond, VA 23219. A comprehensive list of legislation to comment on can be found on the State Legislative Services website.

 

Critical bills to voice support for include my bill to ban assault firearms and high capacity magazines, Senator George Barker’s (D-Fairfax) bill to implement extreme risk protection orders, and Senator Louise Lucas’ (D-Portsmouth) bill to close background check loopholes

 

Your advocacy is critical to reinforce to the Commission that a supermajority of Virginians support these pieces of legislation. I’ve provided sample comments supporting these three, but I urge you to add your own insights and experiences when writing to the Commission. 

 

Sample email or letter to be sent to: comments@vscc.virginia.gov or mailed to: Virginia State Crime Commission 1111 East Broad Street, Ste. B036 Richmond, VA 23219.

 

Dear Director Howard and members of the Crime Commission, 

 

I urge you to support SB4019, which would close backround check loopholes, SB4012, which would implement Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Virginia, and SB4024, which would ban assault firearms equipped with high capacity magazines, bumpstocks, or silencers.

 

Close the Background Check Loophole

 

In 1993, the Brady Law was signed by President Clinton to implement the national system of background checks on gun sales. Since the law was enacted in 1994, over 300 million background checks have taken place, and over 3 million firearm sales to prohibited gun purchasers have been stopped. Countless lives have been saved by this system.

 

Yet today, one in five gun sales are conducted without a background check — through gun shows, private sales, antique dealers, and over the internet in online sales. More than 90 percent of Americans agree that anyone who buys a gun – no matter where or how – should go through a background check. But holes in Virginia’s gun laws mean that too often guns fall into the wrong hands. 

 

Implementing Extreme Risk Protection Orders

 

Extreme risk laws give family members, law enforcement, and sometimes other key individuals — for example, health professionals or school administrators — an avenue to prevent a person in crisis from harming themselves or others by petitioning a court to temporarily remove guns and prohibit them from purchasing additional firearms. Fourteen states and Washington, D.C., have enacted versions of extreme risk laws.

 

An FBI study of the pre-attack behaviors of active shooters found that the average shooter displayed four to five observable and concerning behaviors over time, often related to the shooter’s mental health, problematic interpersonal interactions, or other signs of violent intentions. This law provides law enforcement with the tools to decrease mass shootings and firearm suicides. Connecticut’s and Indiana’s extreme risk laws have been shown to reduce firearm suicide rates in these states by 14% and 7.5%, respectively.

 

Banning assault firearms equipped with high capacity magazines, bumpstocks, or silencers

 

Assault weapons have been used in many high-profile shootings, including of the nation’s most deadly mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas in 2017, which left 58 dead and over 400 injured, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida in 2016 (49 dead, 53 injured), and the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut (28 dead, 2 injured).

 

Assault firearms are not necessary for self-defense and increase shooters ability to inflict carnage. A review of mass shootings between 2009 and 2015 by Everytown for Gun Safety found that incidents involving assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines resulted in 155% more people shot and 47% more people killed compared to other incidents. When access to assault weapons is restricted, deaths due to mass shootings decrease. A 2014 study found that “both state and federal assault weapons bans have statistically significant and negative effects on mass shooting fatalities.”

 

Large capacity ammunition magazines are a common thread uniting many of the high-profile mass shootings in America. The shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT equipped his assault weapon with 30-round magazines, which enabled him to fire 154 rounds in less than five minutes. The gunman in Tucson, AZ, who killed 6 people and injured 13 others, including US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, in 2011 used a handgun equipped with a 33-round magazine. His shooting spree was only ended when he was tackled by a bystander as he finally stopped to reload his weapon. The shooter in the recent Dayton, Ohio mass shooting was equipped with a firearm holding 100 rounds, allowing him to take 9 lives in under 30 seconds. 

 

Silencers, also known as “suppressors,” are inherently dangerous devices that criminals may use to suppress the sound of gunfire and mask muzzle flash. These dangerous accessories obstruct law enforcement efforts to quickly and effectively respond to active shooters, since silencers make it harder to recognize the sound of gunfire, and locate the source of gunshots. They make it harder for victims to recognize a shooting is occurring and flee the scene. Silencers enable criminals to elude law enforcement and raise the risk of ambush attacks, in which a shooter may escape before the police are even called.

 

I urge you to recommend these three bills' passage to the General Assembly. They will save lives. 

 

Constituent Name

Virginia Mailing Address

 

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We cannot lose hope. We need to make our voices heard. It’s time to act. 

 

In solidarity,