For nearly a decade I have been participating in vigils at the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax on the 14th of the month — the anniversary of the mass murder of mostly children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. While I was out of town this past weekend, the several dozen faithful were there to remind us that gun violence is a problem that needs immediate public attention. Our concern grew at least in part from the fact that there is so much gun violence that we could become immune to outrage about it. Our vigil at the NRA is to bring attention to the facts that gun violence continues to increase, the number of guns purchased continues to increase as well, and gun violence has become the leading killer of children.
It takes at least four persons to be killed to be considered a “mass shooting.” The ones that make the front page of newspapers and the evening news have many more than that number. After several days the stories of these mass shootings fade into the background. For every one of these big mass shooting events, there are dozens of stories on the inside pages of newspapers of the ones and twos of murder and suicide that take place with limited note and seem at some places to have become the norm!
Complete statistics on gun violence are hard to come by for the NRA has convinced legislators to limit the record keeping and reporting on the misuse of guns. As best as can be determined, there were about 21,000 gun homicides and 26,000 gun suicides in 2021. Those numbers will soar in 2023 as there have already been more than 200 mass shootings.
With each slaughtering that happens there is usually a call for “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families. When inquiry has been made to election officials as to what will be done, the response too many times has been that we should not jump into the issue because everyone is grieving and that an investigation should be conducted. Too many times there is silence on the issue after some time has gone by.
Virginia has not been an exception to this issue. Virginia Tech and more recently Virginia Beach have made the list of record-setting gun violence. Thoughts and prayers were offered up, but it was not until 2021 that some progress was made on common sense legislation to end gun violence with Democrats controlling the executive branch and the legislature. As soon as the Republicans took over the House of Delegates there were bills introduced to repeal or soften the progress we had made.
The Youngkin administration has shown no leadership on the issue. There continues to be talk about arming teachers, more trauma training, and metal detectors at school doors.
Let your elected officials know that we have had enough. Meaningful legislation is critical at the federal level considering that there are 350 to 400 million guns in our country. Tell candidates that enough is enough and ask them specifically what they are going to do to stop it.