Virginia Capitol

The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond

Members of the public and special interest groups made their case Tuesday to a Virginia commission studying a broad range of gun safety proposals after a deadly mass shooting in Virginia Beach earlier this year.

The bipartisan Virginia State Crime Commission heard hours of testimony from speakers across the ideological spectrum as part of its work to develop policy recommendations for lawmakers, who are not scheduled to reconvene before a critical November election.

“It is not a problem that is easily fixed. And I appreciate you being here,” said Lori Haas, a gun-control advocate whose daughter was injured in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre when a student fatally shot 32 people. “But can we please not wait any longer to address this problem?”

The panel opened its meeting with presentations from law enforcement officials and staffers from advocacy groups before opening the floor for additional comment.

Some speakers cast bills the panel is studying — including measures that would ban assault-style weapons, expand background checks and allow the seizure of weapons from a person deemed an imminent threat — as commonsense ways to make the community safer.

Kristen Martin, a member of Moms Demand Action from Henrico County, spoke in support of strengthening laws preventing children from accessing guns.

“With all this data being thrown around, let’s not forget all these numbers represent lives lost,” she said.

Others argued the measures under consideration would do nothing to stop criminals and would infringe upon the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

“These laws are never going to be effective because criminals don’t follow them,” said Jay McDaniel of Petersburg.

Gun-rights advocates also expressed concern that some proposals, including ones that would expand the ability of localities to restrict guns in certain places, could leave Virginians unable to protect themselves from criminals.

“We’ve done nothing wrong, but again and again we are told that we have to accept more restrictions on our rights to self-defense for public safety. But what about our safety?” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

The work on gun safety fell to the crime commission after GOP lawmakers abruptly adjourned a special session called by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam in the wake of the May 31 attack in Virginia Beach. A city employee fatally shot 12 people inside a municipal building before being shot and killed by police.

The July special session lasted less than two hours before legislation was referred to the commission. That effectively postponed any movement on gun laws until after this year’s November election, when all 140 legislative seats and partisan control of the Legislature are up for grabs.

Democrats have accused Republicans of punting until after the election. Republicans have countered that the complex issue demands careful study and suggested Northam called the special session in part to deflect from a blackface scandal that almost drove him from office.

“We have a gun violence issue in Virginia that needs to be addressed, and we’re here to try and come up with proposals and recommendations and policy options that will help do that,” commission chairman Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain said Tuesday.

But during another part of the meeting, Democratic Del. Mark Levine told Obenshain “no one in Virginia is fooled about what’s going on here.”

“At the end of the day, ... it will be up to Virginia voters to decide whether we want to do something to stop gun violence,” he said.

Tuesday was the commission’s second meeting in Richmond this week. On Monday, the commission heard hours of presentations on gun violence from representatives of the Virginia State Police, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The 13-member commission — nine lawmakers, three citizens and a state official — is supported by a professional staff.

Obenshain said at the conclusion of Tuesday’s hearing that the executive committee of the commission would meet next week and set the timeline for next steps.

(16) comments


Well said ace10. The Left will stop at nothing short of gun confiscation and unfettered abortion. I can’t reconcile the hypocrisy.

Oh, and search “Biden bingo guns” to hear gun confiscation in his own words.


Whoa, talk about hypocrisy. There you go again lying about abortions when you have had every opportunity to read the laws. That “bingo” was only referring to assault weapons, which really serve no place on the streets of this country. That doesn’t apply to any other type of gun. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that something that has been illegal before could become illegal again. “The left” is not going to take other guns, and there is good possibility they won’t take assault weapons either.


Marv, Who is that Senator from CA? There will always be criminals but there is no reason that we can't make it harder for them to get guns. What really breaks my heart is how many kids die or are injured for life because of guns. There needs to be some kind of law about having guns in homes where there are kids. The NRA nixed the smart gun that could have saved so many of them.


Smart guns. Tell me this... what happens to all of the millions of lawfully-owned firearms which don't have electronic controls? Does your smartphone respond to your unlock commands each and every time? Mine certainly doesn't.


How about a locked safe place to store them that children can not get to? I want to know why the NRA nixed smart guns when so many children die from accidental shooting in the home. Also your phone can't kill you or any kid that picks it up, if it does you should buy a different phone.


Nice try... how about answering my question as to what happens to all of the lawfully-owned firearms in the country? Did you know that it is already against the law to leave an unsecured, loaded firearm where a child may access it? See Virginia Code § 18.2-56.2 So if it's already against the law for a child to access a loaded firearm, what more could you want? Did you know that all new firearms are sold with a locking device right there in the box? Do you know anything about this topic?


Ace, first why would anything happen to lawfully owned firearms? Nor did I say that all guns should be smart guns, I wanted to know why the NRA fought against having them in the market. I really don’t know, maybe you do, just asking.

I guess I know a little more about the subject than you seem to know or are ignoring. There are only 28 states that have laws that laws that prevent child access firearms. Virginia is one of them, but that leaves 22 states where children do not have those protections. There are only 11 states that require safe storage or gun locks and only 1 state, that has that requirement regardless of children in the home, Massachusetts. I guess that if your kids want to play at a friend’s house that would be the state to live in. What good is a locking devise if it is not mandated that it must be used in a home with children.

Your info covers Virginia only, I bet some of your friends and relatives, where you may be taking children, live in other states. That is why I think there needs to be federal laws that protect children in every state.


Wow. Talk about moving the goalposts. First it was smart guns. And, of course, you can't be honest and admit that you hadn't given even a second of thought regarding the exist lawfully-owned firearms. Your goal was to simply bash the NRA. Then, when the smart gun idea was crushed, you moved on to locked storage. You know... to save the children. But of course, there are already laws mandating that and guns are supplied with a locking device. So let's pivot again, and make this about OTHER states. Well, this story is about gun laws in the Commonwealth. Where I live. And presumable you do too. You see, that's not how this "conversation" works. You don't get to keep moving the target. If you want smart guns, then you CANNOT, by using simple logic, allow non-electronic firearms to remain in circulation. And none of this will do anything about mass shootings. So is the issue suicide, mass murder, or child endangerment? You've railed on about all three at different times. Please just stop the charade and admit that you want to ban guns.


Tolerant, the left’s platform? Like the left doesn’t own guns too, just another scare tactic conspiracy theory from the NRA. There needs to be comprehensive background checks for all gun sales, you claim that we already have them but that is just BS. Under current law, unlicensed sellers, people who sell guns online, at gun shows, or anywhere else without a federal dealer’s license, can transfer firearms without having to run any background check whatsoever. Virginia law exempts requirements any firearms shows held in any town with a population of not less than 1,995 and not more than 2,010

In fact, an estimated 22% of US gun owners acquired their most recent firearm without a background check, which translates to millions of Americans acquiring millions of guns, no questions asked, each year. Just 2 months ago Christopher Santos had his charges dropped last week after he completed 40 hours of community service for trying to buy a gun when he wasn’t allowed to own one. That is no big deterrent No I have not purchased a gun in the last few years, I don’t stock pile them, I have what I need. Yes, I have had my home invaded. I live in the US, not half way around the world in Hong Kong. And Biden said “bingo” to what?


“We’ve done nothing wrong, but again and again we are told that we have to accept more restrictions on our rights to self-defense for public safety. But what about our safety?” said Philip Van Cleave, Well Phillip, others that got their guns legally have done something wrong and still commit crimes so we need to write some sensible gun legislation. How many guns can you use at one time to protect yourself? Stock piling should be a red flag, but who is keeping track?

“These laws are never going to be effective because criminals don’t follow them,” said Jay McDaniel of Petersburg. But if it’s harder to get guns it’s harder for them to be criminals with guns. Other states complain about our gun laws being so lax that their jurisdictions get flooded with guns from Virginia. If we had comprehensive background checks and guns had to be registered wouldn’t that decrease the number of guns available to criminals?


My "thoughts and prayers" are with our commission leaders and elected officials.

Chris McHale

I do agree that measures need to be undertaken, but the minute you say guns need to be confiscated you are simply putting forth an argument that you know won't pass.


Who said anything about confiscating anyone's guns? That NRA mantra is getting so old. Restricting and regulating sensible gun laws is only that. The amount of people being killed and injured is ridiculous. When there is a problem, we as Americans need to do something about it, that is the way of our country. We can't just sit around will innocents die.


Gun confiscation IS the left’s platform. Please help me understand what would have changed the outcome. There are already comprehensive background checks in place. Have you recently purchased a firearm? Have you ever had your home invaded? Have you watched the government tyranny around the world (Hong Kong) and of our democratic leadership? Biden says “bingo” when asked by CNN.


The Senator from California expressed that thought / desire many times even though she had a concealed permit herself. There is no law including total confiscation that will prevent criminals from acquiring firearms.


The solution is simple... make murder against the law.

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