Mass shootings are all too common in our country, and have become part of our national lexicon. We have become inured to the horror and tragedy of a mass shooting, failing to recognize these murders as the crises that they are.
“No more thoughts and prayers — we need immediate action.” This is now the politically correct response to the deaths of so many innocent Americans.
Unfortunately, the newest addition to this politically correct reaction is that we must bullet and death-proof our schools. As if the lack of fortification of our public schools is the problem. The problem is our public policies and laws. The problem is how we constantly defer to gun ownership and the NRA. The problem is how lax we are as a society when it comes to who can own a gun and who cannot. The problem is how we pretend that the prevalence of untreated mental illness is not a serious problem. And the problem is how we pretend that “throwing resources” at a growing social crisis is not a solution. (Have we really tried throwing resources at treatment for the mentally ill? Have we really tried throwing resources at background checks, safer firearms and enforcing stricter limits on where and when guns are appropriate?) What’s that saying — “don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it”? Well, we haven’t tried it.
There are several other responses to the proliferation of public shootings that we haven’t tried. One is utilizing tools available through existing law. Did you know that in 2004 the General Assembly enacted Section 15.2-915.2 “Regulation of transportation of a loaded rifle or shotgun”? This Code section gives authority to any governing body of any county or city to, by ordinance, make it unlawful for any person to transport, possess or carry a loaded shotgun or loaded rifle in any vehicle on any public street, road or highway within such locality.
Ordinances to this effect have already been enacted by the City of Alexandria, and Fauquier, Loudon and Albemarle Counties. What about Fairfax County? What about Fairfax City? Falls Church City?
My answer to what about Fairfax County is that I have partnered with Senator Scott Surovell to write and circulate a letter to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The letter was signed by nearly all the Delegates and Senators representing Fairfax County. We delivered the following letter last week. Chairman Bulova replied that she would place this item on the BOS agenda for April 10.
Dear Madame Chairman and Hon. Supervisors:
Section 15.2-915.2 of the Code of Virginia gives all local governments in Virginia the authority to ban loaded shotguns and loaded rifles on public highways. § 15.2-915.2. Regulation of transportation of a loaded rifle or shotgun.
The governing body of any county or city may by ordinance make it unlawful for any person to transport, possess or carry a loaded shotgun or loaded rifle in any vehicle on any public street, road, or highway within such locality. A similar ordinance has been enacted in the counties of Fauquier, Loudoun, Madison, Albemarle, Chesterfield, Clarke, James City, King George, New Kent, Northumberland, Surry, Warren and the cities of Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Richmond, Roanoke, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg.
We, members of the Virginia General Assembly representing Fairfax County, do not believe that there is a need for loaded shotguns or loaded rifles on Fairfax County’s public roads. High emotions that come with traffic congestion in our region have led to instances where firearms have been discharged in incidents of road rage. Requiring that shotguns and rifles are not loaded at the beginning of a trip will help to reduce the potential for such split-second, life-changing decisions to occur in a moment of anger. Such an ordinance will also help to protect the driver and passengers, including children, as well as law enforcement from the accidental discharge of one of these weapons. For example, in 2006, Virginia State Trooper Kevin C. Manion was killed after a loaded rifle went off during a wreck cleanup in Clark County.
We recognize that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors considered this issue in 2015. However given recent events, we believe that it is important at this time for all our localities to use their existing authority to foster gun safety and protect the driving public. We hereby ask that you initiate the processes necessary to change Fairfax County’s ordinances to prohibit the transportation of loaded shotguns and loaded rifles to the fullest extent possible under Virginia Law.
We look forward to working with you on this important initiative.
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected]