As the country is trying to move forward after tragic violence over the weekend, many leaders in Virginia pointed out how the Virginia General Assembly had an opportunity to at least consider some meaningful reforms during a special session shortly after the shootings in Virginia Beach. The GOP leadership prevented any sort of real discussion, however, and ended the session less than two hours after it started.
What made the situation worse was Speaker Kirk Cox actually let the NRA set up a war room in his government provided conference room during the special session. In other words, he wasn’t even trying to hide how cozy he was with the gun lobby and wanted to ensure they were in a position to apply pressure on his fellow Republicans as quickly as possible.
The speaker’s also been one of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters even though the president’s rhetoric has further divided our country and has startling similarities to the language used in a hate filled manifesto posted online by the El Paso shooter. The GOP leadership is actually so supportive of Trump’s rhetoric that majority leader Sen. Tommy Norment actually said he was “very proud of” Trump for his ability to “stay on message when that ill-advised little bastard [Del. Ibraheem Samirah] decided to make a scene of it. The president was unflappable.”
Virginia’s Republican leadership might be willing to give the NRA unprecedented access after receiving huge amounts of money from them and channel Trump’s hateful rhetoric, but they still hope to gain some good media attention with statements they released after the most recent round of mass shootings.
“This weekend a pair of evil men committed evil acts of violence against innocent people living innocent lives. I strongly and unequivocally condemn terrorism based on the twisted ideology of white supremacy,” Speaker Cox said. “All people are created equally in the image of God, and those who perpetuate violence based on race are some of the purest evil this world has ever known. I am praying for the victims, their families, and the communities of El Paso and Dayton as they reel from this violence.”
This time, folks are standing up and refusing to let the speaker get away with making a statement that clearly contradicts his record in a desperate attempt to score some political points. Virginia Progress released a statement highlighting how 958 Virginians are killed by guns every year, which amounts to someone losing their life to gun violence once every nine hours.
This happens while the GOP refuses to allow any meaningful reform supported by the vast majority of Virginians because the NRA and might take its large amount of campaign donations elsewhere if there was even the hint of legitimate discussion. They also went after Cox for how his policies are designed to appeal to white supremacists.
“If Speaker Cox is serious about addressing solutions to white supremacist violence, he should be denouncing President Trump for inciting white supremacist violence,” Anna Scholl said in the statement released on Monday. “It isn’t possible to sincerely stand against white supremacist violence while at the same time working on dog whistle bills that require mandatory minimums that disproportionately impact black and brown Virginians. We’ll believe Speaker Cox’s commitment to ending white supremacist violence when we see it. Until then, we will work to make sure he is replaced by someone who is actually ready to do something about it.”
If there’s going to be any actual movement on addressing the prevalence of gun violence in our country and the impact white supremacy has on it, we need more people like Anna Scholl over at Virginia Progress who are willing to call it like it is. It’s part of why Beto O’Rourke received so much attention for his remarks expressing frustration with the media’s refusal to “connect the dots” regarding Donald Trump’s racism received so much attention.
People understand that the “thoughts and prayers” sentiments Speaker Cox and other NRA controlled Republicans have sent are no longer acceptable if they aren’t accompanied by real action. Hopefully that will come soon as we hope to curb the epidemic of gun violence our country’s facing.