Virginia groups react to President Biden’s gun control measures

Updated: Apr. 8, 2021 at 5:25 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia has already enacted laws similar to what President Joe Biden proposed on Thursday, but critics say they believe the executive actions won’t go far.

The gun control debate has been sparked again, not just in the commonwealth but around the country.

One of the actions announced, which had already been seen in Virginia, is the red flag law, which allows courts to take guns away from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

It passed last year in Virginia, and Biden wants it enacted across the country.

“It doesn’t get any help for the person being accused of having mental issues, it’s just taking away their guns,” said Philip Van Cleave of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

The VCDL has been vocal in the last few years on Governor Ralph Northam’s gun control measures in Virginia and doesn’t believe the president’s words will have much range.

“I think that some of this is like candy to the gun control side, ‘oh, look what I’m doing.’ Even though he’s not able to do very much, and I think some of this won’t even make it through court. It will be challenged,” Van Cleave said.

But local gun control advocates are thrilled to see some action from the White House.

“We’ve had two years now of getting a lot of things done, which if we’ve done them years ago, we would have saved a lot of Virginia lives. But now is better than never,” said Andrew Goddard with the Virginia Center for Public Safety.

Goddard serves as the VCPS’s legislative director, and says he isn’t “anti-gun,” but rather “anti-gun violence.” He started pushing for more regulation 14 years ago, after his son was shot - but survived - the Virginia Tech Massacre.

He says much of the measures seem to be mostly a response to recent mass shootings but says they are still a step in the right direction.

“We have many, many more people die every day than at Virginia Tech, in that one incident. It’s just more shocking when it all happens in the same place, but many of these measures are going to be much more useful in reducing that large number of deaths from daily violence than they are from possibly reducing mass shootings. To get to mass shootings, we have to make it more difficult,” he added.

NBC12 also spoke it Attorney General Mark Herring, who pointed out the announcement of more funding for community violence intervention programs. Herring says this will give the state the resources to create more programs like “Respect Richmond,” which his office started in the River City to curb gang and gun violence.

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