Del. Ken Plum: Time to Act on Guns, Virginia

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is commentary by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Virginia made history last week — not for the kind of event for which we would like to be remembered, but one nonetheless that took place on our soil and will be talked about around the globe.

Virginia is home of the first on-camera televised and social media-exposed double murder. A disgruntled television worker shot a reporter and her guest and the cameraman while the show was being televised and then publicized his deed on Facebook and Twitter before shooting himself.

In the 2009 Virginia Tech massacre, 32 students and professors were killed in the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in this country. In the future, Smith Mountain Lake — which has been known as a wonderful place to have a lakeside home for weekend or retirement living — will also be known for the live murders on television, just as the excellent university that Virginia Tech is always will be remembered in part for the massacre that occurred there.

Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., and other places are getting the same kind of blight on their names as the epidemic of mass murders accelerates at an alarming pace.

As astounding as what seems to be a growing tolerance in this country for mass murders occurring in school houses, on college campuses, in theaters and now on television is, the paralysis of elected officials to do anything about it is truly baffling.

The Founding Fathers certainly had none of the present carnage in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment about a standing militia. Certainly the current state of affairs does not promote life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness among the citizenry.

Shocking also is the ability of gun manufacturers and their advocates to turn these situations into opportunities to promote more gun sales and to propose arming of school teachers, college students, citizens, and now I suppose television reporters. Rather than gun safety measures being put into place, there has been a steady erosion of such laws in Virginia and throughout the country.

Part of the solution is expanded mental health services to respond to the needs of individuals who may become violent. Virginia expanded funding for mental health programs after the Virginia Tech massacre but reduced it again soon thereafter. It took a violent attack on a member of the legislature, Creigh Deeds, by his own son to get the money restored. Laws need to be strengthened to ensure thorough background checks so that those whose mental illness causes violence do not get access to guns.

We are past time to act. I trust that voters will look at incumbents’ records on gun safety legislation and will vote accordingly. I will continue to introduce and work hard to pass expanded background checks for gun purchasers. Let’s turn this around and make history again by making Virginia one of the strongest states to take decisive action to prevent gun violence.

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