UPDATED- Mass murder in America: What General Assembly candidates say

Mourning outside Norris Hall at Virginia Tech in 2007. Photo Tobias Beard Mourning outside Norris Hall at Virginia Tech in 2007. Photo Tobias Beard

The slaughter of unarmed people has become a regular feature of American life. Relatively unknown Umpqua Community College in Oregon joined the body count list with nine gunned down in the October 1 rampage. President Barack Obama made his 15th speech on mass shootings since he took office, according to CNN. “We’ve become numb to this,” he said.

Obama called for politicization of the issue of gun safety: “This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America.”

Virginia itself tops the list of massacres with Virginia Tech, where 32 people died April 16, 2007. Two months ago, the state was stunned when WDBJ’s Alison Parker and Adam Ward were gunned down during a live broadcast at Smith Mountain Lake.

Last week, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order he says is designed to keep guns away from people who would use them for harm. The order includes forfeiture of guns for those convicted of domestic violence and a ban on firearms in state government buildings.

C-VILLE asked the candidates for General Assembly what they would do to stop the carnage.

State Senator Creigh Deeds, D-25th District

This is a very complicated issue and a simple answer is not easily found. We have to adequately fund and staff our law enforcement agencies and give them the tools they need to combat crime. We need to improve services for those with mental illness, who are more likely to be the victim of a crime than the perpetrator, but some of these horribly tragic cases have involved someone who has struggled with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. We need to make certain that someone who is not legally able to possess firearms does not have access to them. And we need to remember the importance of early intervention programs and services to at-risk youth.

State Senator Bryce Reeves,
R-17th District

All life has a purpose. The indiscriminate slaughter of any individual is a tragedy. I believe that the General Assembly has a responsibility to do everything within its power to promote, protect and secure life at every stage.

Ned Gallaway, D-17th District

This is a very complex question to answer in a few sentences. First, we need to address interconnected issues including education, access to health care and intervention support services, especially for individuals with mental health concerns, access to social services and responsible gun laws. Prevention of mass murder will not be solved by addressing one single issue alone.

Delegate Steve Landes,
R-25th District

We need to make sure the resources for treatment of those afflicted with behavioral health issues and mental illness are available and accessible at the community level.

Angela Lynn, D-25th District

We need to make sure we focus on public safety.

Delegate David Toscano,

D-57th District

Common sense gun safety measures coupled with initiatives in mental health.

Delegate Rob Bell,

R-58th District

Virginia’s crime rate is the lowest it has been in decades, and the violent crime rate is among the lowest in the country. We should continue to support laws like truth-in-sentencing that keep our most violent offenders in prison, and also continue ongoing efforts to address those with serious mental health issues.

Delegate Matt Fariss,

R-59th District

I believe that someone who would do harm to another person, who is not a threat,
has a mental illness. And until we get a better handle on the stigma around mental illnesses and start treating them like a disease with better treatments, programs and facilities, these horrible acts will unfortunately continue. Our mental health system, statewide and nationally, needs improvement.

Updated October 21

Original story

The slaughter of unarmed people has become a regular feature of American life. Relatively unknown Umpqua Community College in Oregon joins the body count list with 10 dead from yesterday’s rampage. President Barack Obama made his 15th speech on mass shootings since he took office, according to CNN. “We’ve become numb to this,” he said.

“As I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” he said. “It’s not enough.”

Obama called for politicization of the issue of gun safety: “This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America.”

Virginia itself tops the list of massacres with Virginia Tech, where 32 people died April 16, 2007. Little more than a month ago, the state was stunned when WDBJ’s Alison Parker and Adam Ward were gunned down during a live broadcast at Smith Mountain Lake.

C-VILLE asked the candidates for General Assembly what they would do to stop the carnage.

State Senator Creigh Deeds, D-25th District
This is a very complicated issue and a simple answer is not easily found. We have to adequately fund and staff our law enforcement agencies and give them the tools they need to combat crime. We need to improve services for those with mental illness, who are more likely to be the victim of a crime than the perpetrator, but some of these horribly tragic cases have involved someone who has struggled with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. We need to make certain that someone who is not legally able to possess firearms does not have access to them. And we need to remember the importance of early intervention programs and services to at risk youth.

State Senator Bryce Reeves, R-17th District
All life has a purpose. The indiscriminate slaughter of any individual is a tragedy. I believe that the General Assembly has a responsibility to do everything within its power to promote, protect and secure life at every stage.

Ned Gallaway, D-17th District
This is a very complex question to answer in a few sentences. First, we need to address interconnected issues including education, access to health care and intervention support services, especially for individuals with mental health concerns, access to social services and responsible gun laws. Prevention of mass murder will not be solved by addressing one single issue alone.

Delegate Steve Landes, R-25th District
We need to make sure the resources for treatment of those afflicted with behavioral health issues and mental illness are available and accessible at the community level.

Angela Lynn, D-25th District
We need to make sure we focus on public safety.

Delegate David Toscano, D-57th District
Common sense gun safety measures coupled with initiatives in mental health.

Delegate Rob Bell, R-58th District
Virginia’s crime rate is the lowest it has been in decades, and the violent crime rate is among the lowest in the country. We should continue to support laws like truth-in-sentencing that keep our most violent offenders in prison, and also continue ongoing efforts to address those with serious mental health issues.

Delegate Matt Fariss, R-59th District
I believe that someone who would do harm to another person, who is not a threat, has a mental illness. And until we get a better handle on the stigma around mental illnesses and start treating them like a disease with better treatments, programs and facilities, these horrible acts will unfortunately continue. Our mental health system, statewide and nationally, needs improvement.

Read more candidate responses to issues in this week’s C-VILLE Weekly on stands October 7.