Del. Ken Plum: Preventing Gun Violence

by Del. Ken Plum June 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm 24 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoSince the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 27 people including 20 children and the shooter were killed, there have been 79 more school shootings.

Gun rights advocates dispute the number related to schools, but that is the figure Bill Moyers reported a few weeks ago and there are certain to have been even more since his report. The total number of people killed by guns, suicide and accidental deaths between Newtown and December 2013 is 12,042.

With all the fear and anguish brought on by these shootings at whatever rate they may be occurring, little has been done to address the issue in Congress or in state legislatures.

Previous mass murders have had minimal impact on laws to reduce gun violence. One exception is the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. While no one was killed, four were wounded, including the President and his press secretary, Jim Brady, who was left confined to a wheelchair with slurred speech and nightmares.

The efforts of Brady, along with the strong leadership of his wife Sarah, led to the enactment after six years, seven Congressional votes and three presidential administrations to passage of background check legislation known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Recently, I attended the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence National Summit in Washington, D.C. ,that had as its theme to complete the job on background checks to make them universal.

Since the Brady law went into effect on Feb. 28, 1994, background checks have stopped more than 2.1 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers including convicted felons, domestic abusers, fugitives from justice, and other dangerous individuals. But the Brady bill requires background checks only for sales by licensed firearms dealers. Sales by individuals, unlicensed dealers, or internet vendors do not require a background check. The Brady Campaign is mounting a strong lobbying effort that I support to close the loophole on background checks and require them for all gun sales. To learn more, go to www.bradycampaign.org.

As announced at their National Summit, the Brady Campaign is working in other ways to reduce gun violence. Its “Ask Campaign” (Asking Saves Kids) in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to ask if there are unlocked guns in homes where their children play. An estimated 18,000 youth are injured or killed each year due to gun violence. More information is at askingsaveskids.org.

This November, make sure candidates you support for the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate support expansion of the Brady bill. I continue to participate along with many good friends in vigils at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax on the 14th of each month to ensure that the issue is not forgotten. I will be working to expand background checks in the legislature.

Looking at other nations of the world makes us realize it is time to do all we can to prevent gun violence in America.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates

  • Mike
  • Mitch Dugan

    I must wholeheartedly disagree with any elected official who pushes for more control over Americans’ civil rights. The express purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect the electorate from such an overreach from our government. Delegate Plum coyly promotes “expanded background checks” in his blog. Unfortunately, expanded or “universal” background checks are nothing but a call for registration. Simply put, you cannot track a gun without tracking the individual who owns that gun.

    Mr. Plum’s call for closing a loophole is nothing but a push to end all private sales (including husband giving a gun to a wife for protection, or a grandfather to granddaughter as an heirloom). Again, this cannot be achieved without registration. And his claim that internet vendors do not require a background check is just plain disingenuous. All online gun sales must be transferred through a federal firearms dealer (FFL). We don’t need our elected officials spouting this type of falsehood.

    Sadly, even his so called expanded background checks would not have prevented Sandy Hook, or any of the other unfortunate events that have transpired since. Delegate Plum’s explicit support for the lobbying firm known as the Brady Campaign (previously known as Handgun Control, Inc.) speaks volumes as to whom he truly represents.

    As for the “other nations of the world” Delegate Plum looks to – is this a hint that he hopes the US adopts the mass gun confiscation that occurred in Australia, or perhaps he just yearns for a governmental system that omits the Bill of Rights?

    • julieme

      seriously, have you looked at the lack of deaths by guns in other countries? Who in your family needs to be shot to make you think twice? Why should car ownership have more regulation than gun ownership? We ALL have to register our cars. Why shouldn’t anyone who owns a gun have to do the same? The days of hiding behind the Second Amendment are over. Look around you. Innocent people and children are senselessly being killed every day. Do you honestly think that’s what the Founding Fathers envisioned? They had muskets, not automatic weapons. You want the Second Amendment? Get thee a bloody musket!

      • Scott H

        I’m sorry, but you post is almost completely lacking in any factual reality.
        First off, the regulations required to buy most firearms is many states is onerous. The time and expense required in many states is onerous and serves to discourage law-abiding people from purchasing guns.
        Second, driving is a privilege. The 2nd amendment of the Constitution grants a right to bear arms to prevent a government from getting out of line. You might not know that the American Revolution was actually ignited over attempted gun control by England.

        Regarding the Founding Fathers, there is much in today’s society they would be upset about, but free access to firearms is not one. Ben Franklin said “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.” Well, the 2nd Amendment is solely about preserving liberty. The issue with firearms is cultural. The culture that fears and disrespects guns leads to violence. It’s why areas with rich gun cultures and more firearms always have less gun violence. Guns have been around as long as the US. Gun Ownership use to be near 100%. There were far fewer issues. It’s only as gun ownership has decreased, that gun violence has increased. That said, since you’re worried about muskets vs “automatic weapons”, you should know that it is illegal to own an automatic weapon and semi-automatic weapons kill fewer people in the US than hammers, falling, and many other things, so if you REALLY CARE, start by outlawing tools and gravity. They are mush more dangerous to society than “assault rifles’

      • wireknob

        It’s overall violent crime and deaths that matter, not just those carried out with guns. Using only “gun deaths” as a measure of policy effectiveness is utterly disingenuous. Practically speaking, guns are used to deter, disrupt, and defend against crimes in addition to committing them, and other weapons can be substituted for guns to commit crimes and suicide. So counting only gun deaths or gun crimes is a deliberately contrived ploy that only weighs costs, not benefits or alternatives. Would eliminating all gun deaths at the expense of doubling overall deaths be a success to you? Would you try to eradicate the medical profession until there were no deaths related to medical care without considering its benefits?

        And your constitutional arguments are ridiculous, which would be patently obvious to you if you applied them to other rights, including the ones you approve of. Why aren’t you demonizing the American Civil Liberties Union for protection doctor patient confidentiality, which prevents the records of those with mental illness from being entered into the NICS database (I’m not advocating that, BTW)? Is censoring or spying on any form of communication that didn’t exist in the late 1700s OK?

      • Eduardo Blanco

        Cars only need to be registered if they are used on public roads
        Look up the Puckle Gun created 73 years before the Second Amendment..
        Automatic weapons are already heavily regulated (don’t you mean semi-auto?).

        Your arguments are invalid.

        Do you have any original ideas?

      • Mrs. Dugan

        You just replied to my husband, so I’ll reply to YOU.

        How about my BROTHER? Or do you wish MORE gun deaths on my family for me to change my mind?
        His death AFFIRMED my belief in protecting myself and my family from any and ALL threats.
        For you to wish harm on another without any knowledge as to the experiences of that person is IGNORANT and ARROGANT.
        SHAME ON YOU.

  • Billary

    Can you pay more attention to jobs and the economy? Your priorities are skewed.

  • Norm Happ

    Ken, you are right on. Keep up the good work. Norm

    • MasterWildfire

      I would have thought you more intelligent, than to congratulate someone’s “good work” who uses a proven liar as a source.

      I guess that explains a lot.

  • Paul

    Mr. Plum stands vigil at the NRA the 14th of each month to ensure the issue is not forgotten…..

    What about the 75,000 deaths per year from alcohol?
    What about the 34,000 deaths per year from speeding?
    What about the 480,000 deaths per year from tobacco?

    Mr. Plum should also stand vigil the other days of the month at ABC stores, auto dealerships, and convenient stores.

    • julieme

      That is a silly statement. And there are a lot of laws and regulations to try and keep those things from causing deaths. A lot more than laws and regulations to stop deaths by guns.

      • ggd

        lyer there are 22.000 gunlaws

      • Paul


        There are 13,000 deaths per year attributed to guns, minus suicides.

        Exactly what laws and regulations cause alcohol and tobacco from causing deaths in the Commonwealth of Virginia? Look at the numbers, why would Delegate Plum not be working hard to eliminate and protest the sale of tobacco and alcohol?

  • MindlessHack

    Saying that Bill Moyers reported the ‘fact’ doesn’t make it true. He got it from Bloomberg, who fabricated that ‘fact’. CNN later showed that most of the examples were misrepresented. To be fair, you could also list all the people whose lives are saved by guns each year… but, you won’t do that, will you?

    • Scott H

      This is spot on. More people are saved by guns each year than are killed.
      Regarding Bill Moyers, it has been proven that the number is about 20% of the reported total…if you stretch it.
      The term “school shooting” always paired with a reference to Sandy Hook clearly is meant to invoke imagery of a disturbed individual shooting teachers and kids indiscriminately.
      It clearly does not include situations where a couple of 20 year old men are playing dice at 9pm on elementary school property and an argument breaks out. That is clearly an assault that took place on school property. It is a not a “school shooting”. Neither is a student unfortunately taking her own life.
      Bloomberg, Moyers, and now Plum are deliberately trying to mislead about the true nature of firearms. The main question is Why? Is it ignorance or something more insidious? What say you Delegate Plum? I as a voter would like to know.

  • Scott H

    Delegate Plum, Your assertions and numbers are factually incorrect. If you are going to advocate for a position, please do some research beyond what “Bill Moyers” reported…good God. We deserve better from our elected officials.
    73 years old
    34 years in the House
    Time to retire perhaps

  • wireknob

    That 2.1 million guns sales were prevented does not mean that 2.1 prohibited purchasers were denied a gun. The NICS database is incomplete and inaccurate, therefore unfairly and adversely impacting law-abiding prospective gun buyers, those seeking sensitive jobs requiring background checks, etc. At a minimum, the database should be fixed before proposing to extend its use and subjecting yet more law-abiding citizens to its errors and omissions.

    An enforceable Universal Background Check (UBC) requires a complete and accurate national gun registry, with records of all guns and their owners. Otherwise, it would be impossible to prove an illegal transfer had occurred. Given that their are already upwards of 300 million unregistered firearms in circulation, such a registry seems impossible to construct. And since such gun registries have often been used to impose bans, restrictions, punitive taxes and fees, and ill-conceived, burdensome regulations and mandates on law-abiding gun owners, it is clear why such a registry is anathema to them.

    Also, since guns are obtainable in a variety of illegal ways, guns would still be readily available to criminals who wanted them as clearly evidenced by the jurisdictions that effectively ban guns but are still subject to exceedingly high levels of gun-related crime. Considering the significant law-enforcement resources that would have to be diverted from more effective crime-fighting policies in order to implement and enforce such an inevitably porous UBC system, it is difficult to see that this is the most effective use of our limited resources.

    BTW, only private sales between two people residing in the same state (i.e., intrastate sales) do not require background checks. All interstate sales, commercial and private, must be conducted through a licensed dealer with a background check. And private sales to persons who you have reason to believe are prohibited from owning a gun are also illegal.

    A system that allows private gun sellers to easily check, for free and
    without records, the status of a potential buyer would help prevent
    law-abiding gun owners from unwittingly selling to a prohibited person
    without jeopardizing second amendment rights. Perhaps a stamp on
    everyone’s drivers license indicating whether or not the person is
    prohibited from possessing a gun would be agreeable to all, effective,
    and a minimal drain on resources.

    Other nations that have pursued gun control to address crime and suicide have not found this approach effective, despite self-interested claims to the contrary. Suicide rates have consistently been found to be unaffected by gun control policies, presumably because there are many alternative means to that end, and violent crime has either been unaffected, or in some cases has temporarily increased, following gun control efforts. Clearly, criminals prefer disarmed victims, and government officials who legislate ineffective gun control measures that disproportionately impact the law-abiding are only helping the criminal element.

    It is counterproductive for gun control advocates like Ken Plum to irresponsibly demonizing the NRA and the responsible, law-abiding citizens it represents, holding smarmy vigils outside their offices, and attempting to implicate them in acts of criminal violence because they defend our second amendment rights. If, instead, gun control advocates listened to the concerns and views of law-abiding gun owners, focused on our common interest in reducing criminal violence, and stopped proposing policies targeted almost exclusively at lawful gun ownership and use, then perhaps we could agree upon some effective anti-crime policies that respect the rights of citizens.

  • jsmith5893

    Re: “The total number of people killed by guns, suicide and accidental deaths between Newtown and December 2013 is 12,042”

    12042 people murdered by firearms over a 1-year period (Dec 2012 to Dec 2013) works out to about 33 people per day. These are the “word doctored” figures the news media and anti-gun folks like to publicize because people relate to the magnitude of those numbers and it sounds like a lot of people until you realize this is out of a population of 310 million Americans. In that context, it works out to about 1 person out of every 26,000 people being murdered with a firearm. Dwell on the magnitude of your individual significance next time you are in a stadium with 26,000 people. To me, 1 in 26,000 is an acceptable cost to help ensure the security of a free state and the right to own a firearm that has harmed no one. If 1 in 26,000 is too high, how about 1 in 860,000. That’s about the number of people that can be accommodated by 10 Dallas Cowboy stadiums. Would that be acceptable? That is the equivalent number of people (358 out of 310 million Americans) that were murdered with a rifle in 2010 (The AR15 is considered a type of rifle for you non-gun folks – See http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl20.xls). To me, 1 in 860,000 is an acceptable cost to help ensure the security of a free state and the right to own a semi-automatic AR15 rifle with a standard 30 round magazine that has harmed no one. If that is not an acceptable cost, than what is? Given the fact that murderers are an intrinsic part of the human race, what number would ever satisfy you? If all the guns were banned, do you really think that would stop a person who is determined to kill a lot of people? Human beings adapt to situations and constraints – it’s called tactics. The Sandy Hook killer probably chose the rifle (AR15) because it was available and met his needs. Ban all the guns and a determined individual could have used something else and there are a lot of other options thanks to the Internet. If you think this was a horrific crime, imagine the carnage and suffering if he had used a homemade flamethrower and accomplished the task in half the time. What would you do then? Restrict the ownership of gasoline and plumbing parts?

  • jsmith5893

    Re: “Sales by individuals, unlicensed dealers, or internet vendors do not require a background check”

    Currently, there are only 2 ways to legally sell a gun in the US to a private citizen. One is a private sale between individuals (typically like between family and friends) or by a gun dealer licensed with a Federal Firearms License (FFL) from the federal BATF. Only individuals with an FFL can run a background check through the government NICS database of prohibited persons. Private citizens cannot. Note that a person can purchase a firearm online, but the physical transfer of the firearm still must go through an FFL at the seller and an FFL local to the buyer. So if it’s really about background checks and not about establishing a new baseline in order to move the goal posts for more onerous gun control regulations, the government should do 2 things:

    1) Allow any small gun dealer to get an FFL without having a storefront. Currently, thanks to the Clinton administration’s effort to reduce the supply of guns, you can’t get an FFL if you want to sell guns only at gun shows (See question 18a on ATF form 5310 FFL application at http://www.atf.gov/files/forms/download/atf-f-5310-12.pdf). As a result someone that wants to sell guns but can’t afford the inventory costs, zoning challenges and overhead of a storefront has to sell illegally or discretely at the edge of the law as a “private individual” and hence can’t run a background check. Rather than throwing these “kitchen table” sellers out of the system like Clinton did hoping they would go away, they should allow them to get an FFL and subject them to BATF rules, audits and oversight like they were before the Clinton administration let political anti-gun ideology get in the way.

    2) Give anyone free, public, anonymous online access to the NICS database. I don’t understand why a federal database of people prohibited from owning firearms can’t be available in the public domain like databases for sex offenders. The NICS system is really a go/no go process and no useful information has to be displayed to facilitate phishing expeditions for identity theft other than what was already known by the user making the query. It’s certainly no more revealing than the FAA’s pilot and mechanic license query system, which provides more detailed information on presumably law-abiding citizens. Once this system is implemented, you then tell private sellers if you sell or give a firearm to someone and don’t retain documented proof that says you did a favorable NICS check on the buyer, you could be held liable if they commit a gun-related crime. This would effectively close the so-called private sale loophole and still preserve the anonymity of the parties involved the same way the current background check system does now. If a private sale firearm shows up at a crime scene, the ATF follows their current procedure of using the serial number of the firearm to contact the manufacturer and ultimately the last FFL that sold the firearm to a private citizen to obtain that citizen’s name and address from the ATF form 4473 the FFL is required to keep on file. That citizen is then contacted and produces the piece of paper from the NICS background check that identifies the second private citizen who is then contacted, and so forth.

    The real benefit of this proposal is how it can help identify the illusive killer with questionable behavior patterns or mental health issues that is causing so many problems. As it stands now there is no easy, fast, non-bureaucratic method for someone to determine if a suspicious person (neighbor, employee, student, etc) is a potential threat to society. If someone thinks an individual could be a threat, a query to a public NICS database would at least tell him or her in a few seconds if the individual could obtain a firearm. Then, armed with that information the appropriate authorities could be notified and they could decide if it was erroneous information or whether to investigate further. As it stands now, if you tell authorities you know a suspicious person they will probably ignore you, but if you tell them you know such a person and by the way according to the NICS database he can buy a firearm, they will probably be more inclined to investigate rather than risk embarrassment later if the worst happens. The same would be true if you see a suspicious person with a firearm when the NICS query says he’s prohibited from having one. It would also help provide piece of mind and a method for victims of violent crimes to ensure their assailants either on parole or still at large have not been excluded from the database because of some bureaucratic foul-up.

    As Far as I’m concerned, anything beyond this is just a clandestine attempt to lay the groundwork for a registry.

  • wireknob

    Of the 18,000 “youth” (i.e., most often defined as people aged 19 and under) that are killed or injured due to gun violence only a tiny fraction of that is due to accidents, where an unsecured gun in the presence of a young child might be at issue. For example, there are only about 35 accidental gun deaths of children aged 10 and under per year, accounting for only about 1% of fatal accidents for this age group. About the same number of children die by drowning in five-gallon buckets left lying around, so maybe doctors can ask about that, too. Overall, only about 0.5% of accidental injuries, fatal and nonfatal, are due to firearms. The vast majority of those 18,000 deaths and injuries for those “youths” are due to deliberate acts of violence on the part of gang members and other adolescents and young adults engaged in criminal activity. Not sure how a doctor asking about your guns addresses this problem.

    • Leslie P.

      You know why we only have about 35 a year, in my opinion?
      Because law-abiding gun owners believe in safety first. My father taught us to be extremely careful with them, and that is always passed on to those we know who seek our advice and training. Although I’m not an official firearms instructor, I always teach safety first when I’m helping first-time shooters.
      The fact is, anti-gun advocates don’t hate the guns as much as they hate us.

      • wireknob

        I agree. The danger of a firearm is palpable, and all gun owners I know treat firearms with a great deal of respect and caution, which makes accidents relatively rare (and many of those due to uncommon carelessness or recklessness). Contrast this with the widespread disregard for the dangers of automobiles, where drivers are routinely careless and reckless resulting in several orders of magnitude more accidental injuries and deaths.


    “Looking at other nations of the world makes us realize it is time to do all we can to prevent gun violence in America.”

    It does not.

    There is no other country in the world with the sacrosanct respect for individual liberty. It is our exclusive province, by their choice, and by ours.

    The only way to mimic other nations of the world is to discard our own superiority.

    We will not do that.

    Progressives can go stick it.


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