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Continue the fight for safer schools in Virginia – Daily Press | #schoolshooting


Like many parents since the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, we have hugged our kids a little tighter and made the morning goodbyes a little longer before we sent them off to school.

Like Sandy Hook, Parkland or the many other school shootings across the country, Uvalde represents the ultimate parental fear. As fathers, we hear and share the urgency to pass meaningful gun safety laws to protect the safety of our children, schools and community. We know that something must change.

A little more than three years ago, the three of us worked together on the House Select Committee on School Safety to advocate for a comprehensive approach to school safety. We operated and legislated through a shared belief that “a student who is safe is a student who is safe to learn.”

And we got results. During the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions, we passed meaningful gun violence prevention and school safety legislation. We created universal background checks for gun sales, limited gun purchases to one handgun per month, and worked to protect domestic violence survivors by barring those with personal protective orders from gun ownership.

We passed legislation that requires reporting lost and stolen firearms to prevent guns from entering illegal markets. In our schools, we passed legislation to notify parents before a lockdown drill takes place and required school districts to allow public involvement in and periodically update and publish the memorandums of understanding between school boards and local law enforcement agencies. We pushed and got more money for school counselors and support staff.

We have made substantial progress on student safety, but children in Virginia continue to face gun violence daily. Over the past year, Richmond Public Schools identified 41 incidents where students had been exposed to gun violence and reported 10 student deaths. Henrico County has lost six students to gun violence in the past two years. In 2021, Newport News experienced 93 shootings, two of which happened on school grounds, leaving two students injured and one dead.

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The three of us reject the idea that daily gun violence in our communities and horrific mass shootings is normal.

During the 2022 legislative session, our colleagues Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, and state Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, introduced legislation to address the growing threat of ghost guns and prevent firearms without serial numbers from being used and traded. Del. VanValkenburg’s House Bill 590 was a piece of safe firearm storage legislation that would have prevented children from having unsupervised and unauthorized firearms access. Funding for gun violence prevention — such as the Center for Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention proposal by Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News, and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond — was included in Gov. Ralph Northam’s outgoing budget.

Because of the shift in political power in last year’s election, all three pieces of legislation failed, and the funding for this center was dramatically scaled back.

It is an honor to work in the General Assembly and represent our communities in Richmond, but the most important job title we have is “dad.” Our top priority is keeping our children and all the children in the commonwealth safe, so that we can celebrate their accomplishments rather than their legacies.

When we return to Richmond for our next legislative session, we will look at safe storage legislation, an assault weapons ban that will prevent the abuse of some of the deadliest firearms, and increasing the age to buy some of these weapons. In the face of federal inaction, Virginia can be a national leader in gun violence prevention and promote responsible gun ownership.

We owe it to our communities and children to continue this fight for safer schools and communities.

Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg represents the 72nd District, which includes part of Henrico County. Del. Jeff Bourne represents the 71st District, which includes part of Richmond. Del. Mike Mullin represents the 93rd District, which includes parts of James City County, York County, Newport News and Williamsburg.



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