‘Unconscionable’ inaction vs. ‘dancing in blood’ of victims: VA Beach shooting reignites gun debate

Gun control debate heats up

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The debate over gun control has renewed after the devastating mass shooting in Virginia Beach.

Gun control supporters in Virginia are pushing for tougher laws, backing Gov. Ralph Northam’s announcement Tuesday for a special legislative session.

Those who support the Second Amendment argue rights to protect oneself, their family and property must not be taken away. Gun rights advocates also believe that many of these laws won’t realistically stop someone from killing many others, if that’s what they’re intent on doing.

"For those families whose loved ones were killed (in Virginia Beach), they weren’t lost - they were killed by a gun. My thoughts are with them. However, the best I can do is to honor them with action,” Lori Hass, whose daughter was shot twice in the Virginia Tech shooting, said.

Haas’ daughter survived and she now serves as the Virginia director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

“We know that strong gun laws work to save lives and reduce gun violence, and we need to do it here in the commonwealth,” Haas said.

Northam’s package of bills include allowing only one handgun purchase a month, banning silencers and high-capacity magazines, allowing local governments more ability to prohibit guns in city buildings, universal background checks before gun purchases and allowing authorities to confiscate guns from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

But gun rights advocates with the Virginia Citizens Defense League say the laws won’t work to truly curb violence.

For example, VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said most criminals get guns illegally on the street, so a universal background check wouldn’t help keep weapons away from people who shouldn’t have them. Van Cleave said the Virginia Beach suspect had no felony record and is believed to have legally purchased his two .45-caliber pistols, according to authorities.

As for silencers or suppressors, Van Cleave says you can still hear a gun loudly, even with a suppressor, so banning them wouldn’t be effective.

"It just lowers the level just enough so that it doesn’t damage your hearing. It’s still loud,” Van Cleave said.

Gun rights advocates are questioning the governor’s call for tougher laws during a year where scandal has plagued his administration.

"(They) want to focus those cameras somewhere else, other than all of their foibles,” Van Cleave said. “It’s all politics. To me, they’re dancing in the blood of dead people.“

Haas said not acting is “unconscionable.”

“We’ve done nothing (since Virginia Tech)," Haas said. “That’s unconscionable. I don’t know how people who do nothing sleep at night.”

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