HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Ending gun violence, that was the focus of two discussions in Hampton ahead of a special session called by Governor Ralph Northam to address gun control.
He called the special session after the tragic shooting in Virginia Beach that left 12 people dead.
After the Virginia Beach tragedy, Northam proposed seven law changes, including universal background checks on private gun sales, a ban on assault weapons including suppressors, reinstating the one-gun-a-month law for handguns, requiring people to report lost and stolen firearms and allowing local governments to regulate firearms in government buildings.
Northam’s package also includes a “red flag” bill that would temporarily take guns away from people who are a threat to themselves and others.
An emotional Pamela Shepherd of Norfolk made it clear to those in the room: “so gun owners, we don’t want to take your guns.” Several gun owners answered back, “Yes you do.” Shepherd shot back, “No, no let’s have a civil discourse. You keep your guns, but we want protection.”
This Community Forum exchange at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton shows the deeply divided opinions on guns.
Brian Moran, Governor Northam’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, addressed two different meetings. “You conduct a private sale, no background check is done, so we want a universal background check to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not possess them,” Moran said.
Moran had a lot more push back from the Community Forum group, which had a strong presence of Gun Rights Advocates compared to the Round Table group that met before and was invite only.
James Braxton with V.A.N. Rise for Youth says kids carry guns for reasons. It is complicated in today’s society. Arresting a kid with a gun doesn’t make the streets safer. “You need to understand a young person may be carrying that gun to protect himself from the environment, or that young person is being extorted by a local gang who is told do this or your family dies.”
Mark Jordan from Newport News is opposed to Northam’s proposed laws to restrict guns. “You are attacking the most law abiding citizens in the United States. My question is why do you want to disarm them?”
Hampton Police Chief Terry Sult was there. “The big disturbing part the people pulling triggers out here on the street and shooting people, robbing people and killing people are 53% juvenile.”
Pamela Shepherd’s son was at the Virginia Tech tragedy in 2007 and lost three friends, and she knows people in the May 31 tragedy in Virginia Beach. “My friend Sarah lost her husband in the Virginia Beach shooting. My friend Cheryl lost her good friend Katie Nixon in the Virginia Beach shooting,” Shepherd said.
The political divide is deep, and you will see that in the July 9 special legislative session. Northam, a Democrat, is proposing the legislation, but Republicans control the General Assembly. Northam has called on the entire General Assembly to vote up or down on all the bills, not leaving them to defeat in subcommittees controlled by Republicans.
The meeting is one of seven scheduled in the lead up to the special session. Other discussions have been held in Richmond, Fredericksburg and Abingdon.
The timing of Monday’s meeting comes as Hampton police are investigating a shooting at Buckroe Beach over the weekend that left two children and two adults injured. One of the children, a 12-year-old, was hospitalized in serious condition, but was upgraded to stable.