July 9, 2019 — Giffords, the gun safety organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, announced its endorsement of Herb Jones for Senate in District 3 (James City County) and Sheila Bynum-Coleman for House District 66 (Colonial Heights), candidates running against Virginia Speaker of the House Kirk Cox and Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment. The endorsement announcement came immediately after Cox and Norment blocked the Virginia General Assembly’s special legislative session on gun violence, less than 2 hours after it began.
The special session was called by Governor Ralph Northam in the aftermath of the Virginia Beach shooting to address the state’s weak gun laws. The Republican majority, with a history of blocking gun violence prevention legislation, moved swiftly to shut it down. This action was led by Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County), who immediately adjourned the special session before holding hearings.
“It has been 39 days since the horrific mass shooting in Virginia Beach. Every 9 hours someone in Virginia is shot to death. Yet, Virginia Republicans took less than two hours to halt an opportunity to do something to address the gun violence crisis. Virginia deserves better,” said former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords. “Virginia deserves leaders with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby. Those leaders are not Kirk Cox and Tommy Norment. That’s why today we are proud to endorse Herb Jones for Senate and Sheila Bynum-Coleman for General Assembly. This November we will elect these gun safety champions who are ready to take historic action to make Virginia a safer place to live.”
Sheila Bynum-Coleman is running against Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, who has been long supported by the National Rifle Association. A lifelong resident of Chesterfield County and a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Bynum-Coleman knows gun violence firsthand; in 2016, her daughter survived a shooting. Since then, Sheila has been determined to ensure that as few families as possible experience the trauma and grief of having a loved one affected by senseless gun violence.
Herb Jones is a combat veteran who served for over a decade before retiring his military career at Fort Lee in Virginia. After retiring, Herb remained in the US Army Reserves, where he was called up twice after 9/11—serving both in Virginia and two tours in Iraq. He is challenging Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment. In his role as Majority Leader, Senator Norment failed to approve any gun violence prevention bills from passing in the General Assembly. As a retired military officer, Herb carried a weapon every day and believes in the importance of the Second Amendment, but realizes gun safety is a commonsense issue, not a political one.
Republicans in the Virginia legislature continue to ignore the fact that gun violence is preventable. Giffords Law Center’s annual Gun Law Scorecard shows that states that have passed evidence-based gun safety reforms have the lowest rates of gun death and injury.
Unfortunately, the Republican majority of the Virginia legislature has ignored reality by blocking over 50 gun safety bills in the past few legislative sessions alone, including legislation that could have prevented tragedies. For consecutive legislative sessions, Republican leadership in the Virginia legislature has refused to advance reasonable gun safety laws that would provide critical public safety protections to citizens of the state despite voters overwhelmingly showing support for the passage of gun safety legislation.
The actions by those lawmakers to block comprehensive gun safety legislation came at a time when every 9 hours someone in Virginia was killed by a gun and when the crisis cost the state $5.3 billion a year. As a result of this refusal, Giffords recently began a push to bring a gun safety majority to the Virginia legislature with its first endorsements of the 2019 cycle.
- Memo: Virginia Republicans Repeated Blockade of Gun Safety Bills
- Press Release: In First Endorsement of 2019, Giffords Backs Dan Helmer and John Bell for the Virginia Legislature
- Report: Giffords Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard found that Virginia received a “D.” Virginia did not enact any significant new gun laws in 2018 and passed dangerous gun laws, like allowing guns in schools, in 2019.
- Fact Sheet: The State of Gun Violence in Virginia
- Release: Gun Safety Wins in Virginia in 2018
- Analysis: The Salience of Gun Safety in the 2017 Virginia Election