Press Release

Giffords Condemns Virginia Legislature For Pursuing an Agenda that Puts Public Safety at Risk and For Ignoring Solutions to Gun Violence

February 1, 2018 — Today, Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, condemned the Virginia General Assembly for pursuing an agenda that puts public safety at risk and for ignoring solutions to gun violence. Yesterday, the Virginia Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Safety defeated legislation that would have banned bump stocks, the dangerous device used in the Las Vegas shooting, in addition to legislation that would have kept guns out the hands of domestic abusers.

Today, the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Subcommittee failed to pass similar bump stock legislation, while also defeating a bill that would have allowed local authorities to prohibit firearms at public events that require a permit. Against the objections of law enforcement, the panel approved a proposal that would allow any eligible person to carry a concealed gun in public without a permit.

“This week the Republican majority in the Virginia legislature made it clear that they will promote the interests of the gun lobby over those of public safety,” said Nico Bocour, Giffords State Legislative Director. “Just a few months after voters demanded action on gun safety, lawmakers in Richmond blocked legislation designed to make Virginian communities safer from gun violence. To do this while simultaneously pursuing dangerous legislation opposed by law enforcement is unconscionable. This approach is wrong for Virginia and we’ll continue to work with Governor Northam and our gun safety champions who have shown courageous leadership in pushing to solve this crisis.”

Members of Giffords Virginia Coalition also spoke out:

“People want to see a legislature focused on strengthening public safety – not weakening it,” said Frank La Porta, retired Captain of the Virginia Beach Police Department and member of the Giffords Virginia Coalition. “But this week the Virginia General Assembly shut down any hope of passing bills that would help keep bump stocks, the devices that caused devastation in Las Vegas, out of dangerous hands. or allow local officials to prevent people from bringing guns to public events. Instead, they moved forward with a bill that would allow anyone to carry hidden, loaded guns wherever they go without a permit. This would not help law enforcement. In fact it hurts our ability to serve while also failing to address the gun violence crisis gripping our communities.”

“Virginians sent a message last November that they want legislators to more effectively prevent gun violence,” said Tim Heaphy, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia and member of the Giffords Virginia Coalition. “This week the Virginia General Assembly ignored that message by failing to pass a measure banning “bump stock” devices. These destructive devices were used to terrorize and hurt people enjoying a concert in Las Vegas. They do not belong on American streets where they could be used to harm innocent citizens in Virginia or anywhere else. It is unfortunate that a panel in the Virginia Senate sided with the gun lobby over keeping these dangerous devices from doing more damage in the future.”

“Domestic violence and easy access to guns are a deadly mix that results in tragedy,” said Cathy Easter, Executive Director of Safe Harbor, and Advisory Committee Member of the Giffords Virginia Coalition. “Virginia has taken concrete steps to bar an abuser with a track record of violence from using a firearm to threaten, coerce, or cause harm. But more work must be done and this week the Senate majority failed to do everything in their power to help those left vulnerable to the loopholes that remain. It’s shameful that lawmakers would reject a bill to prevent dangerous people, such as stalkers, from having easy access to guns. We’ll continue to fight for Virginia families and individuals who face abuse of any kind by working to elect leaders who will listen – and act.”

If you are interested in speaking with a member of the coalition or any other expert at Giffords please contact

Background on Legislation

The legislation defeated by the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Safety includes:

  • Ban on bump stocks (SB 1): A bill banning the sale of bump stocks and similar devices. In October 2017, a gunman in Las Vegas used multiple bump stock devices to convert semi-automatic rifles into weapons that fired 9 shots per second. It was the deadliest mass shooting attack in modern history. More than a dozen states across the country have begun to take action to prohibit these dangerous devices. That includes Massachusetts and New Jersey where bills were signed into law by Republican officials with backing from Giffords.

  • Keeping guns out of domestic abusers hands (SB 797): Would prohibit any person served with a final protective order based on violence or threats toward a person, regardless of their relationship, from owning a gun. Polls show that 82% of Americans—including 68% of Republicans— support legislation that helps keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers.

Today, the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Subcommittee defeated a bump stocks ban (HB 819) and will not be able to pass a bill that would allow local authorities to prohibit the use of firearms at local events that require a permit (HB 814.) But a permitless carry bill (SB 1255) could still move forward. If signed into law, people who have never passed a background check would be able to carry hidden, loaded guns in public. It also makes it harder for law enforcement to identify people who are blocked from illegally carrying guns in public.

Background on Virginia’s Support for Gun Safety

public opinion survey after the Virginia elections last November found that voters across the state gave the winning edge to candidates who led on a platform of gun safety and made clear they would stand up to the gun lobby. The research details that gun violence was a key factor for voters as they made their final decision. In Virginia, 80% of respondents to the poll said that the issue of guns was very or somewhat important to them when deciding who to vote for. It also found that a majority of Virginia voters said they trusted the Democratic Party more on guns.

Giffords supported the winning campaigns of Governor-elect Northam, Lieutenant Governor-elect Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, and 13 candidates for the House of Delegates. Of those 16 Giffords-backed candidates, 15 won, including seven who defeated incumbents.

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