In March, Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) brought together the House of Delegates’ first Select Committee in 155 years to approach the issue of violence in schools in the wake of mass shootings throughout the country. The bipartisan group of lawmakers has traveled throughout the Commonwealth over the past few months meeting with school administrators, teachers, and staff, speaking about both preventing violence and addressing student behavioral issues to lead to crisis-ridden events.
Spurred on by their innate animus towards the Second Amendment and love of the phrase “common sense” placed in front of bad laws, House Democrats announced their own Safe Virginia Initiative (SVI), which was created to be partisan-based avenue towards taking away guns from their rightful and lawful owners. They said their mission was to bring safety to Virginia schools and focusing on gun control while doing it.
“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 of SVI.
Although school safety is said to be the real end game of the initiative, it was rather overshadowed by what fellow progressive Delegate David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) said on the matter as the General Assembly adjourned in March. 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.”
Some lawmakers are now working with law enforcement officers to craft better ways to prevent gun violence, making the way for new bills to be introduced in next year’s General Assembly session. Currently, the “best” idea to thwart gun violence is to let officers “temporarily” take guns away from people determined to be at risk to do harm.
A lot of contention surrounds this measure as some call it common sense gun control, and others view it as a massive government overreach of the U.S. Constitution.
The proposal is called an “Extreme Risk Protection Order.” It would allow law enforcement officers to take someone’s guns away for a “two-week period” if they obtain a warrant from a judge. These are cases where someone is a serious, imminent threat to themselves or others.
Such a measure could be allocated to police if someone is drunk and threatening someone, if someone posts on social media threatening to shoot someone, or if there is reason to believe someone might attempt to hurt themselves.
A similar proposal has come out of Newport News where the City Council voted 4-1 to pass a extreme risk protection order resolution, which is now on the city’s wish list for the General Assembly to consider in the 2019 session.
The move would tighten up laws allowing those “in crisis” to keep their guns. State lawmakers from the Newport News area have mixed thoughts on the policy with some claiming it is a good idea, and others saying it is going too far.
If the General Assembly passed a law based on the resolution, a judge could order stripping someone of their guns or their right to buy them if a relative or a law enforcement officer can show that they are a “threatening harm to themselves or others.” Though, there would have to be documented evidence of the threats to follow through with the stripping of an individual’s firearms.
Recently, Delegate Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg) spoke about extreme protection orders with police chiefs, sheriffs, commonwealth’s attorneys, legal experts, and other Democratic lawmakers. In a report from WSLS, Hurst hopes to present a bill in the Virginia legislature in the next year that gives police more power to take action in emergency situations.
Although members from the law enforcement community were interested in the authority outlined in the bill, they were questioning how to carry out gun seizures without circumventing one’s Fourth Amendment rights and right to due process.
“They [police officers] acknowledge that the kind of scenarios that these laws would try to reduce are out there and they encounter them every single day,” Hurst said at the town-hall style event.
One of the factors in trying to pass this proposal is the increasing rate at which guns used in suicide attempts in Virginia and nationwide. Around two out of three lives taken by guns per year are the result of suicide.
Blacksburg Police Department Chief Anthony Wilson said lawmakers need to do a better job to help constituents understand that officers do not wish to take one’s guns away unless it is absolutely necessary.
Voicing his concerns, Chief Wilson said, “I have officers that come in every day that say, ‘Chief, we left a gun in a house that scares me to death. Not just for his family. We’re going to go there over and over again. It’s just a matter of time before he shoots one of us.'”
There has been mixed feedback from the public with some believing it is a good idea in reducing rates of suicide and bringing forth better safety in schools, and others thinking it is going way too far.
“If they’re a risk to themselves or someone else I think there should be precautions taken,” Lexington resident Heather Stines said.
In opposition, Buena Vista resident Victoria Owen said, “I feel like it’s threatening to the public because a lot of people want to use their guns to defend themselves.”
During the presentation, a legal expert said that the bill would contain language that if someone has a gun taken away from them by police, they would need to prove that they are no longer a threat to themselves or the public. This, however, flips the presumption of innocence aspect of the Fifth Amendment, which protects citizens from the federal government.
This falls right in line with the agenda from Democrats to grab guns from citizens by any means necessary. For them, it’s not so much a school safety issue, or a mental health issue, as it is a gun issue. For the progressives within the General Assembly, the government knows best and one may now be labelled as guilty until proven innocent under new gun laws.
Do not be fooled; this is about control.