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Mayors Are Key to Ending Gun Violence


The progress we’re making in Richmond and in Virginia was unthinkable just a few years ago.

Earlier this year, downtown Richmond was brought to a standstill when thousands of armed Second Amendment extremists from across the country descended on Virginia’s state capitol. 

The Virginia General Assembly and its new gun safety majority had just gotten down to work. At the top of their list of legislative priorities? Enacting commonsense gun safety legislation like closing the gun show loophole and limiting handgun sales to just one per month. 

The extremists that rallied that day had only one goal in mind: to intimidate and bully our legislators and gun safety advocates into backing down. The rally, held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, forced advocates to cancel the 28th Annual MLK Day Vigil for victims of gun violence, as well as a Day of Advocacy. State and Capitol Police warned advocates that it would be too dangerous to be in close proximity to the armed mobs that had taken over the streets around Capitol Square. 

Local Governments Have an Important Role to Play in this Fight

This day was incredibly frustrating for me as a mayor, because due to state preemption, I was left with little recourse to protect our residents. Preemption is a legal maneuver commonly used by state legislatures to prevent local ordinances from taking effect. Over the last decade, we have seen countless examples of local governments here in Virginia, and around the country, being blocked from passing legislation to keep their communities safe because of lobbying by groups like the NRA. 

The gun lobby has been very successful at wresting control of our cities away from those of us who are closest to the issues and best equipped to solve the problems we face. State preemption laws are used to block cities and counties from passing stronger gun safety laws than their state legislatures allow. That finally changed this year in Virginia, after the state legislature changed state law to allow local governments to act.  

Across the country, states have made major strides in the fight against gun violence. My own state is a great example of how much can change in a year. But Second Amendment extremists continue to terrorize our communities, threatening our lives and our liberty. 

Over the summer, I proudly linked arms with my fellow Richmonders in response to continued police violence against Black communities. Throughout the United States, protests and uprisings remained peaceful as people exercised their rights and came together to make their voices heard. 

But once again, armed insurrectionists, emboldened by our president, sought to intimidate and diminish the people I serve. After watching armed bullies take over our streets on MLK Day, I was determined not to let that happen again. I put pen to paper and signed onto a joint letter with mayors from cities across the country demanding that the president condemn the violence he is complicit in inciting. 

Standing Up for the Safety of Our Communities 

Times of crisis demand not just words, but action—and the City of Richmond acted. On September 8th, the Richmond City Council unanimously passed my ordinance to prohibit firearms at or near large public gatherings, legislation I worked on before the general assembly would have even recognized it as legal. This legislation has been a long time coming, and will allow more of our communities to use our public spaces without fear of intimidation or violence.

Throughout the years, I’ve taken what actions I could to protect my residents from the epidemic of gun violence. After we passed stricter laws around reporting lost and stolen firearms, I took my message to the general assembly, urging them to pass legislation to protect all Virginians. Standing alongside Giffords, I advocated for critical funding to support community violence intervention programs. Earlier this year, I created a task force to reimagine Richmond’s approach to public safety to rebuild trust between police and residents.

The progress we’re making in Richmond and in Virginia was unthinkable just a few years ago. 

Thanks to the countless Virginians who voted and called out for change, the general assembly passed the most sweeping gun safety package in Virginia’s history, including a law that finally gave localities the ability to ban or limit guns in public spaces. I was proud to stand in support of those bills. 

The road to passing gun safety laws at the state and national levels starts in communities like mine. Thanks to the gun lobby’s relentless efforts to prevent progress, change will not come easily. But as we’ve seen in Richmond, eventually, change will come. 

Mayors and local leaders are the key decision makers in this movement, and we must use our positions of power to protect our citizens. Taking on the gun lobby requires grit and courage, but our cause is just, and the fight will always be worthwhile.

GUN SAFETY CHAMPIONS

Americans are demanding leaders who fight for us, not the gun lobby. Across the country, courageous leaders are running on gun safety platforms—and winning. We can’t let up now—we need to make our voices heard far and wide.

Join the fight