Virginia’s senators say they aren’t giving up on efforts to pass stricter federal gun laws even as they were dealt a major setback last week.
After the amendment to put in place near universal background checks failed last week… families from Newton, Connecticut huddled together…hugging each other as tears streamed down their faces. Erica Lafferty’s mom is Dawn Hochsprung- the principal who was gunned down protecting her students at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“Next time there’s a mass shooting it’s going to be on their hands. It will be on their hands, absolutely," she said.
Lafferty and other gun control advocates aren’t giving up. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the gun bill off the Senate floor in order to buy his party more time to gather votes. Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine says he isn’t deterred by the decision to pull the gun bill.
“The lesson that clearly came out of the Tech shooting is the better the background check system, the safer you are," he said.
Virginia’s gun laws are of particular interest to officials up and down the East Coast, but not because they’re viewed as deterrents to crime.
“Virginia’s part of the problem, and they’re not going to become a part of the solution anytime soon," said Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran.
Maryland, New York and Connecticut all just passed some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. But lawmakers say parts of those laws become moot without a new federal law. According to Moran that’s partly because of the commonwealth. “Virginia is one of the sources of gun trafficking in the country, all the way up the east coast. People will go into Virginia and buy a case of guns and drive to an urban street corner up in Philadelphia or New York and open up the trunk of their car and sell guns.”
Republicans like Congressman Morgan Griffith deny the problem though. “I have not seen any data that would suggest that Virginia is a state from which a lot of guns are acquired. Far more guns are acquired through theft than they are through some kind of legal purchase process," he said.
A 2010 report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns highlights the problem. That report compiled ATF data to show which states bleed the most guns across state lines. From 2007 to 2009 Virginia came in the dubious second and third place for guns sold that were later found to be used in crimes in other states.
Virginia Republican Congressman Scott Rigell opposes many of the gun amendments offered in the Senate debate. But he’s sponsoring a bill that would make gun trafficking a federal crime for the first time. Rigell says now that the Senate bill has been pulled he’s hoping his bill can pick up steam.
“This legislation is needed. It’s wise. It does nothing to infringe on the Second Amendment of which I’m a strong supporter.”
Gun control groups are now trying to flex their muscles by dumping money into congressional races nationwide. They want to show that they’re a force to be reckoned with just like the National Rifle Association. But for now it looks like they’ll have a better chance of passing piecemeal reforms as opposed to a massive, comprehensive bill.