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Gun control debate reignites in Virginia after Florida mass shooting

Updated: Feb. 15, 2018 at 8:14 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is once again raising the cry for stricter gun laws, while others fiercely protect their Second Amendment rights.

Cortney Carroll, a mother-of-two in Henrico, survived the Las Vegas mass shooting, which took 58 lives. Carroll says the panic and anxiety from that tragedy was triggered again by Wednesday's massacre.

"I immediately started crying. It makes me tear up thinking about it," said Carroll.

Carroll wears bracelets reading "Vegas Strong" every day, memorializing the deadliest mass shooting attack in U.S. history, and the one which will forever be ingrained in her memory.

"It's to remind me what we went through, and to live life to the fullest, because there are 58 people who can't," continued Carroll.

Carroll recalls huddling in a human pile during the outdoor concert, to take cover from the barrage of gunfire.

"I was praying for God to take me home to my kids. I remember a girl that started crying. She was like, 'But I'm on top'...because she was laying on top of the huddle of people."

Carroll recounted her experience to Virginia's General Assembly last month, in support of gun control bills introduced this year.

Bills were forwarded, requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases and to allow localities to ban guns from public events. There was also a measure banning bump stocks, which allows a weapon to fire more rapidly, and another bill to bring back the one-gun-a-month purchase law, which was repealed years ago.

All failed. Carroll says she was devastated at the outcome.

"I was really shocked. I don't understand why we're making it so easy for these people to commit these horrible acts," said Carroll.

Gun rights advocates say none of these laws would prevent disturbed people from accessing weapons or committing an attack.

Virginia Citizens Defense League president Philip Van Cleave said guns - including semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 often used in these kind of attacks - have proven to get into the wrong hands, regardless of background checks or bans.

"Can you stop every crime by having all kinds of restrictions on our rights? No," said Van Cleve. "These are not solutions that will stop a bad guy. Bans don't work. If they did, we wouldn't have a crack cocaine problem."

Van Cleve argues that it's not just to take away a citizen's right to protect themselves, with some 80 million law-abiding gun owners in the country. He advocates for arming teachers.

"One teacher sacrificed his life for his students. If he were armed, he might have been able to stop that, and stop the shooting early," continued Van Cleve.

Van Cleve also said the conversation should center around mental health and intervention.

"The tie there mostly is people with mental issues. I think that would be a wonderful place to start. But it's a difficult place. That's the other problem. No one wants to address it, because it's not going to be easy," said Van Cleve.

"It breaks your heart, and it's like this reciprocal cycle of mass shooting. We're going to send our prayers and thoughts, they fight a little bit over gun legislation, and then we do it again," said Carroll.

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