Press Release

Giffords Endorses Gun Safety Champions for the Virginia Senate and Sheriff Primary Races

June 4, 2019Giffords, the gun safety organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, announced their endorsement of 4 gun safety champions for the Virginia Senate and local Sheriff races. The endorsement comes days after a gunman opened fire in a Virginia Beach municipal building, killing 12 people and injuring 4 more.

Statement from former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords:

“We’re only 154 days into 2019 and we’ve suffered through 156 mass shootings. Just a few days ago, Virginia Beach became the latest community where the peace of the workday was shattered by gunfire. We must remind ourselves so much daily heartbreak and horror should never be normal. In Richmond, there are politicians who repeatedly take the gun lobby’s money and vote against our safety. But we have the power to change this status quo. Today, we are backing a new generation of Virginia leaders. Champions who will fight for us at the state capitol and work relentlessly to pass life-saving legislation. We are proud to support their campaigns and stand with these candidates who have the courage to finally address the gun violence crisis and protect us.”

The slate of endorsed candidates include:

  • Missy Cotter Smasal (SD-8): Missy Cotter Smasal is the Democratic Nominee for Virginia’s 8th Senate Seat running to unseat one-term Republican incumbent Bill DeSteph. After graduating from Villanova University, Missy was an officer in the U.S. Navy and deployed with the U.S.S. Trenton during Operation Enduring Freedom. She served 4 years active duty, then settled down in Virginia Beach and started a small business. Missy owned and operated Rita’s Italian Ice for over 10 years. During those years, she had two kids and became very active in the community. Missy is on the PTA, a Girl Scout Leader, and was a soccer coach. Missy has been a fearless advocate for gun safety in her community after petitioning the local school board to lock the elementary school doors after collecting over 2,500 signatures from concerned parents in the community.
  • Dick Saslaw (SD-35): Senator Saslaw has spent his career fighting to curb the scourge that gun violence has had on the Commonwealth of Virginia, including carrying bills designed to expand background checks, raise the minimum purchasing age of a firearm from 18 to 21, and to ban devices meant to increase the rate of fire on a gun. When Democrats take back the Senate and he’s Majority Leader, he’ll ensure that commonsense gun safety measures are passed.
  • Justin Hannah, Loudoun County Sheriff: Justin Hannah has a decade of experience in the US Military. He served overseas in Afghanistan where he ran intelligence investigations in support our special forces. He is currently a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves and is the commander of a mobile law enforcement unit that can be deployed anywhere around the globe to provide local law enforcement support in warzones. In his day job, Justin serves as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense at the Pentagon. He has managed teams of over 100 people on three different continents, and budgets of over $78 Million. If elected, Justin will bring his wealth of experience and all the determination he has displayed in the military to address the challenges that Loudoun County faces. In particular, he will work tirelessly to address the issue of stray bullets hitting homes in Loudoun and will advocate for the gun laws necessary to keep the county safe from gun violence.
  • Josh King, Prince William County Sheriff: Josh King is an Iraq War veteran, a deputy sheriff, a leader in his local labor union (SEIU), and an advocate for people with special needs. In addition to advocating for commonsense gun reform, he will work to ensure that his officers are trained to respond to people who are in mental health crisis.