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County urges gun control measures while students hold walkouts after Texas shooting

(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) The Arlington County Board today called for action to stem the tide of gun violence, while groups of students around the county held walkouts in response to the elementary school shooting in Texas.

The Board condemned gun violence and urged state legislators to tighten gun control in a statement issued this afternoon.

Board members called on state lawmakers to close the gift exemption to background checks and allow local licensing and registration requirements for buying and selling guns, among other measures.

“There is a great deal more to be done to address gun violence, and we call on the Virginia General Assembly and the Governor to make protecting all Virginians a priority and to remove the restrictions that bar the Commonwealth’s localities from implementing the gun safety actions that make sense for our communities,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, students at Washington-Liberty High School, Arlington Career Center, Dorothy Hamm Middle School and Williamsburg Middle School participated in walkouts as part of a national effort led by Students Demand Action.

Around 20 students at Washington-Liberty participated in the demonstration, walking to Quincy Park, where students took turns giving short speeches.

One of the students participating said she had to ask her friends about their safety on three different occasions in a year due to issues related to gun violence.

“We’re so desensitized to our own deaths in this society,” she said, “People are desensitized to them dying, that’s terrible because this has happened so much.”

Students also talked about a shooting threat their high school received in October, which led to the school shutting down for the day. The threat turned out to be false.

“This nationwide walkout is mainly to protest the fact that we go to school, especially with bomb threats and shooting threats, and have to sit there, subconsciously knowing that ‘hey, we may be victim one day,'” Megan, a student, said.

Megan told ARLnow that she heard about the walkout from an email the school principal sent in the morning acknowledging the nationwide walkout, as well as hearing about the effort. Another participant, Grace, learned of the walkout from her friends and her mother. Both students said they had participated in several walkouts against school gun violence in the past.

“I went to this walkout because I think people should protest for things they believe in, and this is something I believe in,” Grace said.

Students at the Career Center walkout held up signs that read “Enough is Enough” and “Thoughts & Prayers are NOT Enough,” according to photos tweeted by CBS News correspondent Natalie Brand.

“We’re out here not because we want to skip class but because we fear for our lives going to school, because anyone can go out and buy an assault rifle and shoot up a school,” one of the students said in a speech, according to a video tweeted by Brand.

Arlington police stepped up patrols around schools in the wake of the mass shooting. Arlington Public Schools, in an email sent to families, said support services are available for students and staff trying to grapple with the horrific crime.

The County Board’s full statement is below.

The Arlington County Board expresses our grief, dismay, and anger at the recent murders of Americans in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, TX. For us, as for so many other Arlington parents, grandparents and neighbors, the massacre of 19 elementary schoolers and two of their teachers is unconscionable. As is the act of hate-driven domestic terrorism that took the lives of ten Americans, the week before. These are two of the more than two hundred mass shootings in the United States so far this year. The massacre at Robb Elementary School is the 27th to occur at a K-12 school. Our hearts are heavy for the families who are suffering from the most profound loss imaginable.

This is not a time to stop expressing our outrage and condolences.

We renew our commitment to act to the fullest extent of our local authority and call for additional action so that we can further protect our community from gun violence.

In partnership with our General Assembly delegation, the Arlington County Board has sought – and rapidly enacted when granted – local authority for gun violence prevention policies and ordinances. These actions include the 2020 establishment of gun-free zones in public facilities in Arlington and interagency collaboration to locally implement a 2016 law removing guns from family abuse offenders.

There is a great deal more to be done to address gun violence, and we call on the Virginia General Assembly and the Governor to make protecting all Virginians a priority and to remove the restrictions that bar the Commonwealth’s localities from implementing the gun safety actions that make sense for our communities.

There are too many loopholes and exceptions that allow those with ill intent to obtain a firearm. We call for action to, among other measures:

  • Close the gift exemption to background checks
  • Allow local licensing and registration requirements for buying and selling guns and/or establish a state permit and licensing requirement for open carry
  • Require the safe storage of firearms in the presence of minors
  • Expand the eligible categories for extreme risk protection orders
  • Establish a firearm intervention and prevention fund

Above all, we call for expansions of the exemptions from the state’s preemption laws that constrain localities from our own community action.

Preventable gun violence claims the lives of too many Americans, especially American children. We all are entitled to a life free of violence, in our homes and when we gather in public to learn, to shop, to recreate, and to pray.

If you have information regarding illegal firearms or threats to our community, contact the Arlington County Police Department at 703.558.2222 or Crime Solvers at 866.411.8477.

For community members in need of mental health services, please contact the 24/7 CrisisLink hotline, 703.527.4077 or 1.800.273.TALK (8255) or textline: Text CONNECT to 85511.

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