FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 8, 2019
RICHMOND, VA—Members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) strongly condemn the sudden and unnecessary cancellation of the Virginia Crime Commission’s upcoming meeting by State Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26th, Rockingham), the Commission Chairman.
The cancelled meeting, which was to be held next Tuesday, November 12, was tasked by the General Assembly with addressing the pressing issues of gun violence and public safety in Virginia. According to a press release, Sen. Obenshain cancelled the meeting “for reasons both practical and pragmatic,” further citing the results of Tuesday’s election.
However, the VLBC sees nothing practical nor pragmatic about this failure to work for and listen to the needs of Virginia’s people. VLBC members believe that cancelling such a meeting is a failure to Virginians across the Commonwealth – a failure to protect Virginians and allow them to live full and thriving lives free of constant fears of gun violence.
“This is not the time to take your ball and go home,” said VLBC Chairman Del. Lamont Bagby (D-74th, Henrico/Richmond). “The work ahead didn’t change as a result of Tuesday’s election, nor should our commitment.”
Between 2008 and 2017, deaths by firearms in Virginia have increased by 16 percent, with a total of 9,025 firearm deaths over this period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to preliminary numbers from the Virginia Department of Health, the Commonwealth experienced over 500 firearm-related deaths between January and June of this year, including the tragic shooting of 9-year-old Markiya Dickson. And in a ten day period this spring, an estimated 55 people were shot in Hampton Roads, including 12 people who were tragically murdered in a mass shooting in Virginia Beach.
“We can change the laws immediately, so why wait?” said VLBC Executive Committee member Del. Sam Rasoul (D-11th, Roanoke), who described the meeting cancellation as an abdication of responsibility. “The voters have spoken. And the Commission’s recommendations can provide more context for legislators.”
Many of the candidates who won victories in this Tuesday’s election campaigned strongly on gun control and public safety issues. In addition, a recent Washington Post poll found that some 75 percent of Virginians saw gun policy as a “very important” issue in this recent election, with another one of its polls finding that Virginians overwhelmingly support gun control legislation such as universal background checks and red flag laws.
“This is disheartening and ridiculous,” said VLBC Executive Committee member Del. Marcia Price (D-95th, Newport News). “Are you really letting your disappointment about the elections ruin a chance to have conversations about saving lives? Are we not going to do the work we have been tasked to do?”