By Tara Teaford and Dana Milburn
As mothers, our priorities center on our children’s health, well-being, happiness, and yes — definitely — their safety. As progressives, we support measures to promote those rights for everyone, everywhere.
Such is the case with preventing gun violence. We cannot fathom the pain suffered by parents who lose a child to gun violence — especially at school, which should be a safe place of learning and joy. We both took more active roles in preventing gun violence after witnessing the horror of continued mass shootings, especially at schools, and the staggering toll of daily gun violence that does not make the evening news. We cannot and should not consider this gun violence crisis acceptable.
Every day in America, 100 people are shot and killed, four of them children. We are fortunate to live in Arlington, a community with relatively little gun violence, but we are no more immune than Newtown, Las Vegas, Jersey City, Virginia Beach and many other American communities were when they were shattered by gun massacres. Arlington has experienced several shootings in the past year. And our neighbors in D.C. experience almost daily gun violence partly because Virginia’s lax gun laws help enable that violence via the “Iron Pipeline,” with guns trafficked up and down the I-95 corridor.
Now, finally having elected a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates, Senate and governorship, Virginia has an historic opportunity to make all Virginians safer. We gratefully support the Arlington delegation’s plans to help make real change happen in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
We expect the bills introduced this January in Richmond to be very similar to those proposed for the July 9, 2019, Special Session on gun violence prevention, which the then-Republican majority ended without action. These and other potential legislation are designed to work together to address the gun violence crisis for Virginians:
- Assault Weapons Ban (including high capacity magazines, bump stocks, suppressors): Mass shooters maximize their carnage by firing as many rounds as quickly as possible, and limiting their access to high capacity magazines will help save lives. The Virginia Beach shooter used extended magazines in the murder of 12 former colleagues in May 2019.
- Reporting Lost and Stolen Firearms within 24 Hours: Helps keep weapons out of the wrong hands.
- An Effective Background Check on Every Gun Sold. Currently, private sellers are not required to conduct background checks, so, utilizing the “gun show loophole,” people who can’t pass background checks buy from private sellers, often at gun shows. Background checks save lives and 86% of Virginians support them.
- Expanded Protective Orders: Closes the “boyfriend loophole,” which currently limits seizure of firearms from the subject of a permanent or final protective order to family only. More than 500 women in America are shot dead by their husbands or boyfriends/domestic partners each year.
- Child Access Protection: Increases penalties for allowing a child access to a loaded weapon and changes the definition of a “child” for these purposes from age 14 to 18 to help reduce Virginia’s share of the 8,000 children shot and 1,500 killed per year, as well as the 75% of school shooters who access guns from home.
- Extreme Risk Protective Orders (ERPO): Allows loved ones or law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from someone in crisis who has demonstrated warning signs, before a suicide or mass shooting takes place. These laws are proven to prevent tragedies and will save Virginians’ lives.
- Locality Control: Allows local governments, including our own Arlington County Board’s plan, to enact measures of their own providing further protection, for instance, in municipal buildings or at local events.
- One Handgun Purchase per Month: Reinstates a successful law from the past that tackles weapons stockpiling.
Preventing gun violence is one of the morally defining issues of our time. We add our voices to the chorus of Americans and Virginians calling for common sense gun legislation for all Americans. We urge fellow Arlingtonians and lawmakers from across the state — from all parties — to support the passage of new life-saving laws in Richmond.
Tara Teaford is a leader in Arlington’s Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America group and chair of the Arlington County Council of PTA’s School Safety Committee. Dana Milburn is a leader in the NoVA Chapter of BRADY, United Against Gun Violence, and a member of Moms Demand Action.