Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Virginia’s Lax Gun Laws Dramatically Affect Gun Violence and Crime in Virginia
Press Release

RELEASE: Virginia’s Lax Gun Laws Dramatically Affect Gun Violence and Crime in Virginia

Washington, D.C. — As Virginians prepare to head to the polls to elect their representatives in the state Assembly and Senate, the Center for American Progress has released an issue brief today addressing one of the most pressing issues facing the state: gun violence.

This brief highlights four aspects of gun violence and gun-related crime in Virginia that stand out as exceptional or above the national average:

  • Virginia is one of 17 states where more people are killed annually by gunfire than in car accidents.
  • Virginia ranks third among the states for the highest number of guns exported out of state and used in crime, behind only Georgia and Texas.
  • Women are killed with guns by intimate partners at a rate that is 21 percent higher than the national average.
  • Virginia ranks fourth among the states for highest number of individuals killed in mass shootings: 1 in 20 victims of fatal mass shootings in the United States from 2006 to 2015 were killed in Virginia.

As the home of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting, one of the largest exporters of guns used in crimes, and the headquarters of the National Rifle Association, Virginia is often considered a bellwether state for the debate over the nation’s gun laws. Despite the rising trend in gun violence, the high-profile shooting at Virginia Tech, and the recent on-air execution of a reporter and cameraman, efforts by many of the state’s lawmakers to enact gun legislation that protects Virginians and others from gun violence have been stymied.

“In recent years, Virginia has seen some of the strongest executive leadership on gun violence prevention issues, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) executive order issued two weeks ago,” said Chelsea Parsons, CAP Vice President of Guns and Crime Policy. “Yet we have not seen the same commitment to the issue from the elected leaders in the state Senate and Assembly. If current trends continue, roughly 3,500 Virginians will die by gunfire over the next four years, making this a critical public health crisis that must be addressed.”

“Since my daughter Alison was brutally murdered on live television by a deranged gunman, I have called on our national leaders to do whatever it takes to prevent these shootings that happen far too frequently in our country,” said Andy Parker, whose daughter, a reporter, was murdered during a live television broadcast near Roanoke, Virginia, in August 2015. “Our state leaders here in Virginia need to do the same and finally begin to take common-sense measures, like universal background checks, to strengthen our state’s gun laws.”

“Virginia is one of the top 10 states that supplies guns that are used in crimes in other states. That’s a top-10 list we shouldn’t be proud of,” said Virginia Sen. Donald McEachin (D). “And those same illegal guns are too often used to kill people right here in Virginia as well.”

“There have been roughly 7,000 gun deaths in Virginia in the years since the Virginia Tech tragedy,” said Lori Haas, Virginia state director at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, whose daughter Emily survived being shot at Virginia Tech, unlike 32 others who lost their lives in that incident. “That’s simply inexcusable and immoral. We need our elected officials to fight to make it harder—not easier—for criminals and the seriously mentally ill to acquire guns.”

The issue brief recommends that the Virginia legislature take up legislation addressing key weaknesses in the state’s laws, including requiring background checks for all gun sales, prohibiting domestic abusers and stalkers from buying and possessing guns, and ensuring the surrender of guns by all prohibited individuals.

Click here to read the brief.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at tcaiazza@americanprogress.org or 202.481.7141.