Another shooting gives us the chance to work towards peace – The Virginian-Pilot
There are things every parent worries about when they send their child off to college. Will she be able to keep up her grades? Will he make friends? Will they remember to do laundry and call home sometimes?
Worrying about whether he will be shot shouldn’t be one of them.
But that’s just what parents of students at the University of Virginia grappled with this week when three students were shot and killed on a bus as they returned from a field trip late Sunday night. Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were popular football players with bright futures. A female student who was injured has since been discharged from a hospital. Football player Mike Hollins, who was also injured, underwent surgery and is recovering in the hospital.
Authorities have said that Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., a UVA student and former member of the football team who was on the trip, began shooting students on the charter bus as it pulled to a stop at a campus parking garage.
The incident caused a lockdown of the university on Monday, forcing students to shelter in closets, libraries or wherever they happened to be at the time.
Shootings like these have become so commonplace in America that when a school text went out saying “Run, hide, fight,” every student knew exactly what it meant. They have been practicing these drills all their lives.
Students from our own peninsula have experienced school shootings in the last few years. Two teenagers were shot in September 2021 at Heritage High School in Newport News, sending hundreds of students running for safety.
And a 17-year-old student was shot and killed during a fight outside Menchville High School, also in Newport News, after a basketball game late last year.
Every day, we hear of incidents around the country in which our young people are injured or killed by gun violence at school.
We should not accept this as normal.
Yes, the Second Amendment provides “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” But it does not say that the country should operate as if it were in a perpetual state of domestic war.
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Without more aggressive actions, how will we protect our children? Forget about masks — do we need to send them to school in bulletproof vests and tactical gear? Metal detectors at every bus stop, coffee shop and library? Extensive and invasive background checks on every citizen in the country, in case they have a history of mental illness or violence and also a gun permit?
There has to be a better way.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun violence reduction legislation to pass Congress in 30 years, was a good start. Some of the Biden administration’s strategy includes additional funding to fight crime, and bolster federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as crime prevention programs.
As part of this effort, the National Institutes of Health will fund four community violence prevention programs — including one focused on young people in Richmond. Virginia Commonwealth University will study the effectiveness of a hospital-based program aimed at reducing the risk of firearm-related violence and injury in youth victims.
But there is more we can do to keep dangerous guns out of dangerous hands, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, strengthening background checks, and enacting safe storage laws.
The only way forward will be through compromise. Responsible gun owners should be allowed to use them and lawmakers should find a happy medium between their rights and the safety of our communities. Most other industrial nations have figured out how to do this in a way that protects their citizens. Because living indefinitely in a war zone is too high a price to pay.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is now over for three young men in Charlottesville. We must do more to ensure the rest of our young people have a chance at that dream.