Virginia Crime Commission digs into data on mass shootings

Laura Vozzella, The Washington Post: August 19, 2019.

 The State Crime Commission, thrust into the center of Virginia’s roiling gun-control debate, spent Monday poring over pie charts, bar graphs and a few eyebrow-raising cartoons.

Law-enforcement officials, epidemiologists and academics spent seven hours presenting information on the growing threat of mass shootings, delving into sometimes obscure data points on a trend no one could miss.

“These events are getting closer together, and they’re getting more devastating,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research.

The 13-member commission, which is bipartisan but controlled by Republicans, is made up of lawmakers, three gubernatorial appointees and one state official. It has been directed to study ways to address mass shootings and other gun violence.

That daunting task landed in the commission’s lap in July, when GOP leaders of the state House and Senate abruptly adjourned a special session that Gov. Ralph Northam (D) called after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach.

House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) asked the commission to come up with recommendations before the General Assembly reconvenes Nov. 18 — after a pivotal state election in which all 140 legislative seats are on the ballot.

Democrats have dismissed the move as an effort to dodge the issue until after Election Day. Republicans have said they are sincerely seeking a comprehensive study. Whatever the motivation, the effort got underway Monday with the unusually dry forum, which drew none of the raucous gun-control and gun rights protesters who normally flock to Capitol Square when firearms are on the agenda.

They are expected to make up for that Tuesday, when the commission will allow activists, interest groups, legislators and other guests to testify.


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