Column: Gun Violence Still With Us

Column: Gun Violence Still With Us

Mass murders have not made the front pages of newspapers recently even as the pace of gun violence continues to be a menace to our society. Keeping many incidents of gun violence off the front pages of newspapers is in part related to the Federal Bureau of Investigation definition of a mass murder being the killing of four or more persons in a single event. That is a horrific event without a doubt, but the amount of violence in occurrences just below that definition has to be equally as alarming.

Virginia is no stranger to mass murders. One of the deadliest mass murders in our country occurred on the campus of Virginia Tech when a mentally deranged student in 2007 killed 32 students and staff and wounded 24 others. As recently as 2019 a Virginia Beach city employee killed 12 people at his workplace and wounded four others. 

Every day in Virginia and throughout the country news media are reporting on the inside pages of newspapers and in other news accounts the daily occurrence of gun violence that is less than a mass murder but bringing trauma to thousands and disrupting the safety and quality of life for many thousands more. There is a legitimate concern that the public has become numb to the bad news and may shut it out as something we do not want to recognize or know about because there is no known solution for it.

Virginia is no stranger to gun violence. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, in an average year in Virginia 1,019 people die and 2,050 are wounded by guns. Virginia has the 29th highest rate of gun violence in the United States. In Virginia, 65% of gun deaths are suicides and 32% are homicides. Guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens. An average of 85 children and teens in Virginia die by guns every year, and 55% of these deaths are homicides. (

Beyond the statistics are the stories of what happens to individuals, families, and communities because of gun violence. In July of last year a three year old was killed by a stray bullet in Richmond. In the same city in April a shootout at an apartment complex left a woman and her three-month-old baby dead. In November in Norfolk last year three women died and two were wounded from gun shots in a domestic dispute. In March of this year a 25-year-old newspaper reporter and her friend were caught in crossfire from a shootout in downtown Norfolk and were killed. There are dozens of similar stories of what some have described as an epidemic of gun shootings in the Commonwealth.

Citizens need to continue to speak out on gun violence and help give a voice to the victims. The 2020 session of the General Assembly made important reforms related to gun safety including my universal background check bill. We need to hold onto these reforms without backsliding while electing candidates who will support further reform.