Gun violence prevention for the first time has made it to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s legislative priorities list for the General Assembly in Richmond.
At a recent community forum, many of the state senators and delegates representing Northern Virginia agreed with the JCRC’s stance.
Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-District 34), who lost her brother to gun violence, said gun safety is a big issue for her and that, despite setbacks, she will continue pushing bills to keep constituents safe from gun violence. In her remarks, she cited concern over a gun shop that opened next door to an elementary school in McLean.
“These are issues that I don’t think that we can ignore just because the other side refuses to listen. There has to be one thing that they can allow us to move forward on,” Murphy said of state legislators who have so far stonewalled gun bills.
Other local lawmakers joined Murphy in calling for action on firearms at the Dec. 8 event held at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in Fairfax.
“I am astounded that these events occur day after day after day, and nothing is done about it at the federal level. And I’d like to do something in Virginia,” said Delegate-Elect Mark Levine (D-District 45).
“I know it’s an uphill battle. I’m not naive. I recognize how hard it is. But I do believe we have to try and try in any way we can to try to keep these dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people and that’s something that I’m going to advocate very strongly.”
Sen. Barbara Favola (D-District 31) said she has introduced bills to take guns away from individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault crimes and to remove firearms from domestic violence abusers who have been served with an emergency protective order.
“I expect I’ll have challenges getting these bills through, and I fully expect that they will be amended. But I’m hoping that we can reach more of a balance in this country, especially Virginia, between this gun rights agenda and public safety issues, which I think are very important,” Favola said.
The JCRC also added Israel advocacy as a standalone issue for the 2016 legislative agenda, pointing to the growth in the global campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state.
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-District 41) said she was in discussions with the JCRC, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and other Jewish organizations around Virginia on a potential anti-BDS bill that might be modeled on legislation adopted in South Carolina that bars public entities from engaging in business with any companies that are part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. South Carolina is the first state in the nation to sign an anti-BDS measure into law.
Medicaid expansion was a source of frustration for Del. Kenneth Plum (D-District 36) and Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-District 35), who devoted much of their time to talking about what they see as the misguided rejection of federal money by the Republican-majority state legislature.
“I believe it is immoral what we are doing in Virginia. We are having Virginians taxed by the federal government, raising money for a health care program for which we then deny to our citizens. That’s not right. We can’t allow that to happen,” said Plum. He said that if Virginia accepted the federal money for Medicaid expansion, it would free up funds in the state budget for things like public education.
With Alabama, Louisiana and Texas moving toward taking the Medicaid expansion, Saslaw said, “I think it’s going to come down to us and Mississippi.”