Public weighs in on both sides of gun debate before State Crime Commission

Commission is still on track to give recommendations on bills in November

RICHMOND, Va. – Dozens of members of the public stated their case either for or against bills meant to prevent gun violence Tuesday afternoon in Richmond.

It was the second day of hearings for the State Crime Commission, whose leaders said is on track to give recommendations on specific gun control and gun safety bills to the full legislature on Nov. 18.

The commission next meets Oct. 15.

The two days of testimony are the latest legislative response to the mass shooting in Virginia Beach earlier this summer. Last month, Republicans abruptly ended the  Democratic-called special session on gun violence, sending dozens of bills -- both Democratic and Republican -- to the commission to be vetted.

Gun-reform supporters said the amount of gun violence in Virginia means the commonwealth needs to tighten its laws.

“It’s disgusting that our lawmakers are incapable of doing anything to prevent it,” one woman said.

“Toddlers are dying. Women are being injured, terrorized by their partners with guns,” another woman said.

Gun-rights supporters spoke against all the major gun-control bills up for discussion.

“None of these laws address the people they go after the weapons. That’s preposterous and outrageous and completely unconstitutional,” one man said.

“Stop infringing on my rights and do your job to protect my rights,” another man said.

After hearing expert testimony Monday on gun crime statistics and what certain research says about the effectiveness of specific proposals in other states, the commission also heard from interest groups and law enforcement officers Tuesday, including from Newport News Sheriff Gabriel Morgan, who lobbied for localities to be able to enact their own gun control laws.

“They’re crying for us to do something, but we’re unable to do anything because our hands our tied,” Morgan said.

On the topic of red flag laws, which cover extreme risk protective orders, some officers said they’re in favor of them because they would like to have more options when responding to threats.

Gun rights supporters opposed those views, in part, by voicing concerns about due process in those cases.

This comes as a poll released Tuesday says more than 7 out of 10 Americans support red flag laws.

Republican Senate leader Steve Newman, who represents the Lynchburg area, told 10 News Tuesday afternoon that he’s pleased with the process so far.

He said he wants to avoid an emotional response to recent shootings.

“Virginia is not known for being a knee-jerk state. In Virginia we’ve been very deliberative about all these issues,” Newman said. “We’ve come down here. We’ve put aside all the political posturing and said let’s study the issue and let’s get to the core issues.”

Democrats’ gun control and gun safety bills are focusing, in part, on bills that would:

-Expand background checks
-Ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers
-Allow Extreme Risk Protective Orders
-Reinstate a one-handgun-per-month law
-Require the reporting of lost or stolen guns
-Add greater punishment for adults who allow minors to access guns
-Allow localities to regulate guns in government-owned buildings and at events

Democrats call their initiatives commonsense.

The Republican-led legislature has squashed many of these proposals before and the National Rifle Association has spoken out against them.

GOP leaders are proposing bills, among others, that:

-Make some criminal sentences tougher
-Improve security at schools and government buildings
-Mandate reporting of workplace violence threats

About the Author: