BY O. RANDOLPH ROLLINS - April 27, 2013
As Virginia secretary of public safety, I had a leading role in the passage of Gov. L. Douglas Wilder’s one-handgun-per-month bill. The law was designed to reduce gun trafficking. But last year I was disappointed when the law was repealed.
I support background checks for gun buyers, which prohibit purchases by felons, those found guilty of domestic violence and persons committed for mental health reasons. In December 2012, 327 firearms transactions were denied, according to Virginia State Police. But no background checks were required for transactions at gun shows, on the Internet or for private sales, where up to 40 percent of transactions occur. So I was again disappointed when the U.S. Senate failed to pass a law requiring background checks for all commercial sales.
It seems that we are living in a period with more threats from acts of violence, like the mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Newtown, but with fewer resources to prevent them and protect the public. For various reasons, government seems to have pulled back on public safety. At the very least, we are not looking at available information that could help to prevent violence and protect us.
Because of this shift, we as citizens and members of the public have had to take on greater personal responsibility for our own safety. Some decided to buy a gun. In December 2012, gun sales in Virginia were 50 percent greater than in the previous December. Yet when I first heard of the mass shooting of 20 little children and six teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, I asked myself, “How can I explain this?” and “What can I do and say?” Here was a disaster of national proportions, and I had no frame of reference to understand it or to know how to act.
With a better understanding of these disasters, we can make more informed decisions about our personal response. For example, do I have a duty to report criminal or mentally unstable behavior? How can I protect my family if they should be involved in such events?
I am eager to learn
from this series and become better informed so I can respond in effective, appropriate ways when the next mass shooting disaster comes.