© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Public, Interest Groups Weigh In On Guns At Crime Commission

Mallory Noe-Payne/Radio IQ

Virginia’s State Crime Commission heard hours of public testimony Tuesday, all on gun violence. Many of the comments fell along expected lines, but there is one emerging point of consensus. 

Extreme Risk Protection Orders, also called red flag laws, allow a judge to temporarily remove someone’s guns if they’re a risk to themselves or others. 

Speaking to the Crime Commission Tuesday, Bruce Cruser, with Mental Health America, pointed out that two-thirds of gun deaths in Virginia are suicides. He thinks a red flag law could lower that number.  "Studies show that removing the lethal means is the best way to prevent suicide," Cruser told the commission. "When a gun is used the fatality rate is over 80%, compared with a far less lethal rate for other methods.”

Amy Swearer, from the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, told the commission that gun violence is not an epidemic and most gun control measures are extreme responses.  However, she supports red flag laws.  "They also allow individuals including friends and family members, who are well positioned to recognize when a loved one is becoming dangerous, to play a more significant role in alerting law enforcement to that danger,”  Swearer said.

Commission members also heard from dozens of citizens. Jay McDaniel of Petersburg spoke against stricter gun laws.   “You all are here to do one thing," McDaniel said. "And that is to protect my rights. Not my life, not my opportunities, not any of those things.”

Others spoke for gun control measures. Pam Pouchot of Yorktown spent her allotted two minutes listing people who had been shot and killed.   “A 12-year-old who was taught by his father how to handle firearms had his best friend over," Pouchot recounted. "He showed his friend a new gun and let him handle it. He failed to verify it was unloaded. His friend killed him.”

After Tuesday’s hearing the State Crime Commission will research a number of policy proposals, including red flag laws, before submitting recommendations to lawmakers.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.