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Peter’s Take: Tighten Background Checks For Virginia Gun Sales

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

It’s time for Virginia legislators to do their very best to re-examine carefully and calmly what further legislative steps Virginia should take to reduce the number of people who are killed or injured by mentally unstable shooters.

Andy Parker, the father of Alison Parker, one of the two Roanoke, Virginia TV reporters who were killed while conducting an on-air broadcast last week, put the issue this way:

I’m not going to rest until I see something happen. We’ve got to have our legislators and congressmen step up to the plate and stop being cowards about this…describing himself as a supporter of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. How many Alisons is this going to happen to before we stop it?

We owe it to Andy Parker and other Virginia family members who have been seared by similar tragedies to take another look at this issue.

Arlington Del. Patrick Hope launched an online petition to assess support for his proposal to take another look. Hope’s petition received more than 20,000 signatures in the first 24 hours. As Hope explains:

Many people feel powerless in these situations because of the political climate that holds us back from real change. I’m asking my colleagues to put people first to get this done once and for all. I know we can’t end all acts of gun violence, but that doesn’t need to stop us from advancing common sense solutions like background checks that can help keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

Hope is aware that if there is any chance of legislative success, large numbers of Virginia Republican legislators must support any bill. No such bi-partisan support will emerge if Democrats and Republicans spend their time accusing each other of “callous disregard of a tragedy” or trying to “capitalize on a tragedy.” Also, no progress will be made if politicians refuse even to discuss issues relating to tightening Virginia’s current background check system by arguing that “no system could have prevented this particular shooting.”

Instead, our legislators should approach with open minds a stem-to-stern re-examination of every aspect of the ways in which Virginia collects mental health data to be entered into the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) system. There should be some quiet, behind-the-scenes discussions among legislators from both parties to explore potential areas of agreement.

There are many local and national resources available. For example, The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police supports strengthening background checks.

Conclusion

Hope deserves praise for his leadership on this. If you have suggestions for him, you can send them to [email protected].

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