NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – The President of the Newport News Education Association is calling on state leaders to pass “common sense” gun laws amid the investigation of the Richneck Elementary School shooting.
On Jan. 6, a 6-year-old allegedly shot first grade teacher Abby Zwerner during classroom instruction. It was the third shooting on Newport News Public Schools property in less than two years.
“All of these shootings were perpetrated by minors who accessed deadly weapons. It should not be so easy for children and teens in Virginia to get their hands on firearms,” Dr. James Graves, NNEA president, wrote in a statement.
In the two-page document, Graves names six state senate bills specifically relating to gun owners and how they secure their firearms.
He is calling for support for SB1139, SB1382, SB901, SB 1067, SB1181, SB 1192, as well as a budget amendment to invest in the “Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention” fund.
“It’s just basic knowledge, information to save lives,” Graves told 10 On Your Side’s Michelle Wolf. “The situation with Miss Abby is a wake-up call. It’s a wake-up call that should be heard.”
SB1139 would require gun owners to securely store guns separately from ammunition if a child lives in the home. Initial violation of the proposed law would constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.
SB1139 is written in response to the Richneck Elementary School shooting when a six year old got ahold of his mother’s handgun which, according to the family’s attorney James Ellenson, was stored on a closet shelf with a trigger lock.
SB1382 criminalizes ownership of assault rifles. SB901 prohibits gun owners from leaving firearms in unattended and unlocked motor vehicles.
Passing such laws is easier said than done, according to strategist Ben Tribbet.
“I just don’t think you’re ever going to see a willingness from Republicans to engage on guns because their base doesn’t want them to,” Tribbet said. “And they will lose the Republican primary if they do so.”
Graves said common sense gun laws are only the start.
“Since January the 6th, there has been so much tension among educators and administration and the school board and everything to try to find solutions,” Graves said. “The solution is grasping the behavior-style of a student.
“Metal detectors are fine, clear backpacks are fine but we have to fix the behavior of the student and the consequences and accountability of the student as well as the parents.”