WHEN Virginia’s General Assembly adjourned its July 9 special session without considering Gov. Ralph Northam’s request to deal with the aftermath of the Virginia Beach massacre, many who expected action felt frustrated.
Now, politicians being politicians, any change in the state’s gun laws will not be dealt with until after the November elections.
However, there is a chance to weigh in on gun-control issues. Adjourning after only 90 minutes of the special session, the General Assembly said that the bills that were filed will be evaluated by the Virginia State Crime Commission, which will make recommendations to the legislature.
And that commission wants to hear from you. It is accepting written comments from the public about the proposed legislation. Those comments can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the Virginia State Crime Commission Office at 1111 E. Broad St., Richmond VA 23219.
The commission, a group of bipartisan legislators and three citizen members, also will hear public comments at its Aug. 20 meeting in the shared committee room of the Pocahontas Building at 900 E. Main Street in Richmond.
Democrats’ bills are seeking universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders and bans on bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and silencers. These were the issues Northam wanted discussed by the legislature after the May 31 killings in Virginia Beach.
Republicans filed bills to bolster public safety by increasing mental health resources via budget adjustments in addition to harsher criminal penalties for gun crimes and tax exemptions for donations to Virginia Beach victim relief funds.
However you think Virginia’s gun laws should be changed, or if you don’t think they should be changed at all, this is an opportunity for you to take part in the democratic process. Writing to the commission, or making the trip down to Richmond on Aug. 20, is a better and more effective way of making your voice heard than posting on social media, where the tendency is either to frequent sites that reinforce what you already believe or to fruitlessly argue with people whose minds you are not going to change by calling them bad names.
Getting laws changed in a state where governance is often a minimalist activity is not easy. Your views will go to a committee that will take all the views of you and your fellow Virginians into account before making recommendations to the General Assembly, which will then act (or not act) on those recommendations.
This might seem like a slow and tedious process. However, the alternative is to do nothing, or at least nothing productive.
So make your voice heard. It’s your state government. And if you like or don’t like the way it’s being operated, let somebody in Richmond know.