Grassroots activists hold a going out of business banner on the sidewalk across the road from the National Rifle Association in Fairfax during the July 14 protest against gun violence.
Photo courtesy Karen Higa
On July 14, more than 75 concerned people who oppose gun violence in Fairfax turned out to protest at the National Rifle Association. More motivation came from the July 9 failed special session of the Virginia General Assembly, when Republican lawmakers adjourned in record time without considering any proposed legislation.
Passing motorists heading to and from Oakton on a Sunday afternoon beep their car horns and give thumbs-up gestures in support of the protesters, who line the sidewalk at 11250 Waples Mill Road on a hot summer day July 14 — which marks their 79th consecutive vigil for the 20 school children and six adults fatally shot Dec. 14, 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The anti-gun violence activists are used to having their firearm safety bills shot down in committee soon after the Virginia General Assembly regular session starts each January.
“We’re always hopeful,” says Del. Kenneth “Ken” R. Plum (D-36t) of Reston at the monthly NRA protest, “but realistic.”
THE JULY 9 special gun session called by Gov. Ralph S. Northam was no different, as state lawmakers adjourned early with no floor votes on the governor’s package of eight proposed gun safety measures. Plum said the General Assembly adjourned just 90 minutes after the session started at noon.
A week later, Kris Gregory of Falls Church said the most important fact to concerned citizens like herself was every delegate and state senator in the Virginia General Assembly had to vote to adjourn. It was a party-line vote to end the special session July 9 and the Democrats were outnumbered by the Republicans.
“It’s such a cowardly way to do it,” points out Plum, who is the longest serving member of the Virginia House of Delegates.
Most gun violence prevention activists believe the NRA controls the Republican majority. Gregory attended the July 9 “Votes and Laws” rally held that morning by Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America before the legislative session started. She said buses chartered by Brady United Against Gun Violence left Richmond at 1 p.m. before a scheduled 2 p.m. gun rights rally held at the Old Bell Tower. She explained the Virginia Capitol Police requested both sides hold their rallies separately.
Gregory noted at the NRA protest she and more than 500 activists of the gun violence prevention movement statewide were in Richmond July 9 to get a message out to elected officials, “not to provoke the Second Amendment advocates.”
She and other protesters learned about the outcome of the special session on the bus ride home through text message from Brady staffers, who stayed in Richmond.
THE GOVERNOR said July 9: “I expected lawmakers to take this seriously. I expected them to do what their constituents elected them to do — discuss issues and take votes.”
“An average of three Virginians die each day due to gun violence,” Northam said. “That means hundreds of Virginians may die between today and Nov. 18, the next day the legislature plans to work.”
According to the state government website, lawmakers agreed to meet again after the Nov. 5 General Election. Gregory makes it clear she and other activists are working to elect “gun violence prevention champions here in Virginia” on Nov. 5. They are united in heeding a call Gov. Northam has made to Commonwealth voters for more than a year: “If you can’t change their hearts, change their seats.”