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UVA, Chesapeake shootings renew calls for action on gun violence

Chesapeake Shooting Scene
Carolyn Kaster
A police vehicle drives past a makeshift memorial in the parking lot of a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, for the six people killed at the Walmart when a manager opened fire with a handgun before an employee meeting last week.

First there was the Virginia Tech mass shooting. Then there was the mass shooting at Virginia Beach. Then the University of Virginia and now the latest at a Walmart in Chesapeake.

That's prompting some to call on lawmakers to do something.

Phillip Van Cleve at the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League says the solution is addressing people with mental health problems. “Basically, what we need to do is when these people are identified as dangerous, they need to be taken off our streets and locked away from the rest of us until they are no longer a danger. Then they can come back into society," Van Cleve argues. "But we’re fools if we let them out of jail and walk among us because they are predators and they will prey on us.”

But Mike Fox at the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action says a very small percentage of crime is committed by people with mental illness “For example, under the red-flag law, you don’t have to be diagnosed with having some kind of mental illness in order for it to be applied to you because you may simply be going through a moment of crisis. So I think looking at it only through the mental health aspect is too narrow,” Fox says.

Fox hopes lawmakers will create a waiting period to buy guns, require a permit to purchase firearms and take advantage of new federal resources to strengthen Virginia's red flag law by creating public awareness campaigns to let people know how they can safely report people who might be a danger to themselves or others.

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

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.