President Deb Wake represented the League of Women Voters® of Virginia during the public comments session of the Virginia State Crime Commission hearings on proposed Gun Safety Legislation.
Here is her statement:
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization formed nearly 100 years ago out of the Suffragist Movement. After women won the right to vote, it was important to educate the new voters through the study of issues and the formation of positions through consensus. These positions also serve as the basis for advocacy. Our positions on gun safety can be found on the national website: https://www.lwv.org/impact-issues. “From its inception, the League …worked for equal rights and social reforms. In the early years, the League was one of the first organizations to address such issues as child welfare, maternal and child health programs, child labor protections, and laws that discriminated against women….In the 1990s, concern for violence prevention spurred a new League position and brought strong support for commonsense measures to control gun violence. The League supported the Brady bill and sought to close loopholes that undermine consumer safety.”
The League of Women Voters does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Instead, we focus on issues and policies. Many of these issues, like gun violence prevention, have become hot-button topics. It is important when emotions run high on both sides of sensitive issues, to look for common ground and solutions found effective by the overwhelming body of rigorous research.
This year we are celebrating the 400th anniversary of Representative Democracy. We cherish and embrace a form of government that places power in the hands of the people–people who elect their peers to represent them and to make laws for the common good. We have a public safety health crisis and it is imperative that lawmakers work together for a solution.
Yesterday was spent listening to expert testimony and viewing data relating to gun violence. While it is important to make informed decisions, if we truly care about governance and public safety, there comes a time when lawmakers must make hard choices and pass laws for the benefit of their constituents and for Virginia as a whole. We have not seen legislative solutions in the wake of mass shootings in the 12 years since Virginia Tech or in the two months since Virginia Beach. It breaks my heart that we are teaching 5-year-olds– 5-year-old children– duck and cover drills because we refuse to pass laws to keep them safe. Our representative democracy is failing our children and all those who have been victims of gun violence or are fearful of becoming victims because we have no laws to protect them.
The problem is not gangs. The problem is troubled people with easy access to guns. The League of Women Voters of Virginia has reviewed the studies. We urge you to support universal background checks with a waiting period, to make sure that those who should not have guns are not able to easily access them. We urge you to support red flag laws to protect those who would harm themselves or the people close to them. We urge you to strengthen permanent protective orders and to provide access to emergency protective orders disarming domestic abusers. We urge you to adopt stronger child access prevention laws. Researchers in Virginia and throughout America have found that these are effective solutions for preventing suicides and homicides.
A recent Wason Center poll found that the vast majority of Virginians want true, effective action. (https://cnu.edu/wasoncenter/surveys/2019-07-03-gun-issues-survey/) States with stronger gun laws see fewer children dying of gunshots. Gun availability is a risk factor for homicide and for suicide. The facts are clear. As a nonpartisan organization of thousands of Virginians, we urge you to stop delaying and to take action now.
Deb Wake (she/her)