By Amy Friedenberger
The Virginia Tech shootings in 2007 claimed the lives of 32 people. The Virginia Beach shooting in May resulted in 12 deaths. In the 12 years between those mass shootings, more than 3,000 people were killed in shootings in Virginia.
Most of those deaths received little attention from politicians. There were no special panels or special legislative sessions to discuss causes and solutions to the unremitting cases of gun homicides, which often take place in urban areas and claim a disproportionate number of black lives.
Mass shootings — although they represent a small percentage of gun murders — often steer the debate on gun violence and inspire policy proposals such as bans on military-style assault weapons. Politicians don’t often talk about one of the more promising strategies aimed at significantly reducing urban gun violence. But Republican Del. Todd Gilbert, a former prosecutor from Shenandoah County with a tough-on-crime point of view, wants to try it out in Virginia.
“These mass shooting incidents are horrifying, but they don’t represent the bulk of gun-related violence in our country,” said Gilbert, the majority leader in the House of Delegates. “Far too often it’s communities of color and communities that are impoverished where the bulk of this violence occurs. I feel like we need to stop forgetting about that and forgetting about those victims and try to find a way to get people to make better decisions about their life and the lives of others.”
Gilbert has proposed a way to take an organized approach to introducing programs inspired by Operation Ceasefire, an anti-violence initiative launched in Boston two decades ago. It’s a strategy police and community leaders use to identify those most at risk of shooting someone or being shot, convey why the violence needs to stop, offer support, and promise swift and tough crackdowns on the groups that continue shooting.