Mount Vernon Column: ‘To Do Nothing Is Also a Policy Choice’

Mount Vernon Column: ‘To Do Nothing Is Also a Policy Choice’


These tragedies occur faster than I can publish columns. As a father of a teenage daughter, I planned to write about the importance of teaching our children that no means no, because one-in-five women will be sexually assaulted in their life. That figure is likely underreported due to the stigma we still attach to women who are the victims of sexual assault, rather than attach a stigma to the men who commit sexual assault.

However, tragedy doesn’t keep a publication schedule and over 100 people were killed or wounded early Sunday morning because they were celebrating life at a gay club in Orlando during the Pride festival. The carnage was again horrific and the result will again be the same: no real policy change.

This shocking hate crime should serve as notice that the fight for LGBT equality didn’t end when we granted individuals the right to marry their partners. They can still be fired because of their sexual orientation, or refused housing because their landlord will not rent to a gay couple, or that transgender students are not respected in their choice of which toilet to use. Or worse, they can be slaughtered while dancing the night away. There is no doubt that this was an act of terrorism. Yet, we cannot ignore this was a hate crime, further highlighting the need to regulate the deadly weapons involved.

I received only a 2 percent score from the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which advocates for unrestricted gun rights and includes people who truly believe that they are “good guys with guns.” Mine was the lowest score in the entire General Assembly despite the organization’s knowledge that I am certainly not against the Second Amendment, I’m for common sense gun laws. Our founding fathers most assuredly did not foresee today’s weapons that can kill or wound over a hundred people in minutes. That cannot be what was behind the words “... a well-regulated militia ….”

None whom advocate for stricter gun safety measures believes that regulation is the end-all-be-all, or that it will be a magic Band-Aid to stop gun violence. It is against the law to murder and yet people still murder. Nevertheless, we assert that it needs to be more difficult for people to access deadly weapons than it is now.

The reason I am the lowest-scoring delegate in the General Assembly is because I supported legislation that would establish civil liability for crimes committed with firearms; establish limitations on purchases of handguns; restrict ammunition capacity to a maximum of 10 rounds; prohibit loaded weapons in public places; require a Terrorist Screening Database check prior to purchase of firearms; prohibit the use of firearms by children six years old or younger; establish a penalty for possession of firearms in a school zone; increase penalties for firearm use in the commission of a felony; establish a penalty for purchase of firearms by individuals intending to commit an act of terrorism; criminalize the purchase, transportation and possession of flamethrowers; require a criminal history check prior to firearm purchase at a gun show; prohibit the carrying of loaded weapons by intoxicated persons; prohibit individuals in the Terrorist Screening Database from obtaining a concealed carry permit; and prohibit those with mental health or substance abuse problems from obtaining a concealed carry permit.

Yet all of these common sense gun safety bills failed to become law and were left in committee before I even had a chance to vote for them.

Offering our thoughts and prayers to the victims of gun violence and their families is important. However, God has given us a country where we can vote and a Commonwealth in which there is an election every year. We need people who will vote for inclusive laws that eliminate discrimination, and for more people who will get 2 percent scores from gun advocacy groups to have a real policy change in Virginia. We must do everything in our power to prevent the next tragedy from occurring, and as President Obama stated last weekend, “To do nothing is also a policy choice.”