Weeks ago, nearing the end of the 2018 session of the Virginia General Assembly, Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (Colonial Heights) formed the first Select Committee in 155 years to serve as a vehicle to discuss the next steps the Commonwealth must take to ensure the safety of students. Spurred on by the February 14 shooting as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the Select Committee on School Safety, staffed with 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats would look to identify problems and consider solutions that will make Virginia’s children safer in schools. However, that was not enough for House Democrats who have now launched the “Safe Virginia Initiative.”
Even though Speaker Cox included both sides of the political aisle in the discussion over school safety, Virginia Democrats, outraged by the lack of gun control consideration, have launched their own group to investigate gun violence in Virginia. Two Northern Virginia Democratic legislators announced on Tuesday their Safe Virginia Initiative task force that will tour the Commonwealth, focusing on gun control and school safety, according to a report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“We believe that it isn’t possible to separate school safety from gun safety,” said Delegate Kathleen Murphy (D-Fairfax) one of two co-chairs.
“We will arrange meetings, events and round table discussions monthly across the Commonwealth, from May through October with the goal of developing policies and finding consensus on legislation that will help reduce gun violence in order to keep all Virginians safe,” said Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), the other co-chair, via her Facebook page.
House Democrats released a statement in which Caucus Chair Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) said, “There was no productive debate on gun safety this past legislative session. Indeed, most measures failed to get out of committee. Away from the demands of session, we are taking this opportunity to listen and learn more from our communities and present comprehensive solutions to gun violence next session.”
The meetings will be held between May and October across Virginia to get the public opinion on what should happen in regards to gun legislation and school safety. The task force will have four regional chairs: Delegate Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond), Delegate Marcia Price (D-Newport News), Delegate John Bell (D-Loudoun), and Delegate Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg).
Reportedly, the Democratic leaders have extended invitations to the task force to Speaker Cox and others in the Republican leadership.
Regardless of what is to be discussed during these meetings or the real end game at hand, the legislative ramifications of the Safe Virginia Initiative will be overshadowed by what fellow progressive Delegate David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said on the matter as the General Assembly adjourned.
He explained, “School safety is a legitimate issue, it just can’t distract from what our primary goal is…and that is to get some reasonable common sense gun safety measures passed.”