Ken Plum: Recent victories call for another

kenplum2I continue to celebrate the human rights victories we have had recently in marriage equality, health care and housing. I voted against Virginia’s marriage amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman when it came before the General Assembly and campaigned against it in the referendum; voters in my district voted against it. Now it is history! All Virginians can marry. Now we need to work against LGBT discrimination in other parts of our society.

With the Affordable Care Act being found constitutional, we need to move forward in fully implementing it in Virginia by expanding Medicaid coverage to the working poor. A key benefit of accepting federal Medicaid dollars is that it would free up state funds for programs we currently are unable to fund adequately like mental health and education. As many as 400,000 Virginians could be helped as we accept back into the state tax monies Virginians have paid into the system.

The Supreme Court’s ruling interpreting the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that housing discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional to be illegal protects vulnerable populations. These advances remind us that we need to stay the course on other issues like gun violence and the Second Amendment. A study recently released by the Harvard School of Public Health found that between 1982 and late 2011 mass shootings occurred about every 200 days. After September 2011, however, the rate of mass shootings increased to one every 64 days! Prior to the 1980s mass murders had rarely occurred. Since Columbine and Virginia Tech, the rate of terrorism by mass murderers using guns has accelerated. A timeline in a recent issue of Mother Jones dramatically shows the increased frequency of mass shootings. (Mass Shootings) Since the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, there have been more than two dozen slaughters using guns. I join President Obama in wondering what kind of nation we have become and when we are going to insist that political leaders do something about gun violence.

Recent Supreme Court rulings in other areas convince me that commonsense gun safety measures can be enacted into law and pass any constitutional challenge. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote in words that are inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial, “institutions must advance also to keep pace with the time.” A militia of armed citizens is not required for our times. Trying to enact legislation to keep guns out of the hands of violent or mentally ill people is not an attack on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. Bills are being introduced in the Congress and in the General Assembly that would put the Second Amendment freedom in perspective with the public’s safety. I will continue introducing bills for universal background checks. Insist that your elected representatives support these bills. If there are those who would want to take the resulting laws to the Supreme Court, let’s go. Our recent victories call for another!

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

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