So many shootings, such meager concern

August 27, 2019 12:13 am

Eve Levenson leads chants in support of tighter gun laws in front of the Capitol on July 9, 2019, as lawmakers entered for a special session that lasted 90 minutes and adjourned with no debate until Nov. 18. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

State Republican legislators resistant to new gun laws should’ve met 18-year-old TyQuisha K. Craig – or, at the very least, now learn about her brief life.

Someone shot and killed the young community college student in 2014 as she was leaving a house party in Norfolk. Her mother told me the young woman wanted to join the FBI. No one has ever been charged in the slaying, in which Craig was an innocent bystander. Police told me Monday they’re still seeking tips to arrest her killer.

Perhaps GOP lawmakers could talk to the parents of Markiya Dickson, a 9-year-old girl killed in the crossfire during a Memorial Day celebration this year at a Richmond park. Markiya was waiting to ride a pony when she was gunned down.

Or, they could inquire about a spate of shootings in July in Fairfax County. The violence injured six people. In one incident, police recovered 29 shell casings.

So it’s ridiculous, as some state Republican legislators claim, that Gov. Ralph Northam deigned to call a special session so soon after the attack at a Virginia Beach government building that left 13 people dead, including the gunman, on May 31.

Where have these so-called leaders been? Don’t they know most shootings in the commonwealth have nothing to do with such mass attacks, and everything to do with the easy access to firearms – particularly handguns?

These crimes are instead part of the senseless, repetitive acts of violence in Virginia that occur every … single … day. Virginia Tech and Virginia Beach were outliers.

I’m guessing the Republican lawmakers do know. They simply don’t care, since they continue to pledge fealty to the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups.

That’s why Republicans put the kibosh on discussing firearms last year as a special legislative panel tackled school safety. It was the first select panel convened in 155 years. I likened the prohibition to cardiac doctors being barred from talking about high cholesterol to patients struggling with heart disease; it was just as absurd.

It’s why GOP legislators – who narrowly control both chambers of the General Assembly – adjourned Northam’s special session in July only 90 minutes after it started, without considering any gun-control bills.

The Assembly instead punted to the 13-member State Crime Commission, whose members heard hours of testimony last week from advocates of gun rights and gun control. Any substantive action won’t take place until after the fall elections, in which all 140 seats in the House and Senate are on the ballot.

And if you think anything will happen in that lame-duck session, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

I understand the caveats surrounding guns. For instance, though more than 1,000 Virginians die annually because of firearms, nearly two-thirds of the total died in suicides. Homicides account for a much smaller percentage.

Still, keeping guns away from people suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts could lower those numbers, too. The intransigence by state Republicans to pass reasonable, data-driven gun legislation continues to endanger Virginians.

As Northam noted in a letter last week to the Crime Commission, the state’s one-handgun-a-month law “dramatically reduced the number of crime guns from Virginia recovered in the Northeast, a total drop of 54 percent. Since the repeal of this law in 2012, Virginia has returned to being the top source state for crime guns recovered in D.C., Maryland, New York, and West Virginia.”

One party in Virginia doesn’t really want to focus on statistics like that.

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Roger Chesley
Roger Chesley

Longtime columnist and editorial writer Roger Chesley worked at the (Newport News) Daily Press and The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot from 1997 through 2018. He previously worked at newspapers in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Detroit. Reach him at [email protected]