‘Epidemic’ of gun violence prompts call for Virginia to use federal dollars to curb shootings
For years, Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone has been trying to gather data on how firearms flow from gun-store shelves to crime scenes in his city’s high-poverty neighborhoods.
Though experts and politicians have floated multiple theories about what’s driving an uptick in violence in Virginia and the rest of the country, Boone says guns are too easy to get and too hard to track as they change hands, and the COVID-19 pandemic made that problem worse.
“The gun sales soared. They soared to such a degree that now we are dealing with Armageddon,” Boone said in an interview. “We have young folks shooting young folks. And that’s the reality of it.”
Virginia’s homicide rate hit a 20-year high in 2020, and many cities are seeing higher rates of violence persist in 2021. Some of the shootings making headlines this summer have involved shockingly young victims, and the accused shooters are often teenagers themselves.
“What’s alarming to me, in the last year and a half, is the age of the shooters and the age of the victims,” Boone said. “That’s the thing that stands out the most. How brazen they are … They simply do not value life. They will pull a trigger intending to hit a specific person. But they don’t mind collateral damage either.”
When Democrats took control of the Virginia General Assembly in 2019, they wasted little time passing new gun restrictions expanding background checks, limiting handgun purchases to one per month, creating red flag orders to take guns away from people deemed dangerous, boosting penalties for leaving guns accessible to children and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.
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