This past weekend our quiet McLean community received the awful news of the murder-suicide of the Chen-Zhou family. Fairfax County Police reported that Hong Chen killed his wife, Shirley (48), and sixteen year old son, before shooting himself. We hear of awful stories like this one happening elsewhere, but this time it’s our town. We know that the tentacles of this single act of gun violence reach far and wide.
As we offer thoughts and prayers to the family, friends, and all in the community whose lives were forever changed by this horrendous act, we must also direct our thoughts to our elected officials. The prayers they offer must be matched with their commitment to action. Demand their courage; demand they stand up to the gun lobby. Domestic violence ending in a fatal shooting is not rare. In America, most fatal domestic violence is committed with firearms. Fifty-two percent of American women killed with guns are killed by intimate partners or family members. Despite impressions from media coverage, 57 percent of mass shootings (defined as shootings in which four or more people are killed with a gun) are acts of domestic or family violence. While these numbers may sound overwhelming, there is something that can be done. First, readers should know that our current gun laws in Virginia are porous. Domestic abusers can purchase firearms without a background check (through loopholes at gun shows and online through classified ads like Armslist.com). Moreover, many abusers can keep their existing guns because not all protective orders result in a court ordered surrender of the firearm. Research shows that common-sense gun laws improve women’s safety from gun violence. In states that require background checks for all handgun sales, 47 percent fewer women are killed with a gun by intimate partners. And state laws ensuring that convicted abusers or those subject to domestic violence restraining orders are separated from their firearms are also associated with reductions in gun violence against women.
The Virginia Chapter of Moms Demand Action is working statewide to end gun violence in America. I urge you to find out more about us at www.momsdemandaction.org.
The writer is McLean/Falls Church Leader, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.