RICHMOND – Calls for stricter gun laws after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December did not persuade the Virginia General Assembly to pass such legislation during its 2013 session.
But as legislators adjourned Saturday, protesters at the state Capitol said the fight is just beginning.
About 35 people marched to the General Assembly. Some held signs bearing the names of lost loved ones. Others picketed with signs referring to the 26 people killed in Newtown, Conn., two months ago and the 32 killed at Virginia Tech in 2007.
“It’s the last day of the session, but the conversation on gun laws in America and Virginia is just starting,” said Gena Reeder, a spokesperson for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, formerly known as One Million Moms for Gun Control.
The organization supports banning assault rifles, eliminating the sale of high-capacity magazines and revising Virginia’s concealed weapons laws, Reeder said. To close what many call the gun-show loophole, the state should require mandatory background checks for private firearms sales, she said.
“We don’t want the wrong people to have the wrong guns,” Reeder said.
Andy Goddard of the Virginia Center for Public Safety agrees with Reeder. Goddard has supported gun law reform since his son, Colin, was shot by a deranged student in the Virginia Tech massacre. Colin survived and is now a spokesperson for the Brady Campaign, a national organization that lobbies for stricter gun laws.
“We’re not trying to stop people from owning guns; we’re trying to stop people from getting access to guns who shouldn’t have them,” Andy Goddard said. “We already have a list of people who aren’t eligible to own weapons, and we still allow them to be sold to them. That’s ridiculous.”
Sen. David Marsden, D-Burke, addressed what he called the “obsession” of guns in America in a short speech to protesters.
“There are so many Americans who want to live in this dream world of guns being a bucolic American pastime,” he said. “And yeah, there are people who handle them responsibly, but there are so many who don’t.”
Marsden acknowledged that the Virginia General Assembly’s 2013 session has been disappointing for gun control advocates.
Before the session began, he proposed a bill saying gun owners could be held civilly liable for damage or injury if they fail to secure a firearm from “theft or unauthorized possession” and it is later used in a crime. The measure was killed by a Senate committee in January.
Marsden also sponsored legislation requiring gun owners to report a stolen or missing gun to police. It passed the Senate but died in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety last week.
About a dozen people picketed against more restrictive gun legislation in response to the One Million Moms protest. One man picketed with an AR-15 assault rifle strapped to his chest.
Dick White, a gun rights supporter at the Capitol, said he disapproved of legislation curtailing his Second Amendment right to arm himself against a tyrannical government.
“The political elite in our country have become so dissociated with what the people actually want that it’s just government by fiat at this stage of the game,” White said. “Whatever people want, it’s just thrown to the wayside.”
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.