Senate committee should capitalize on second chance to prioritize lives of women over guns

state-capitol2Following a controversial vote on Monday, a Virginia Senate committee will again on Wednesday consider a bill that would prohibit those convicted of domestic violence, sexual battery, and stalking from purchasing and possessing firearms. SB 943, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st), will be considered in the Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

At a hearing Monday, Committee Chair Tommy Norment (R-3rd) called for a voice vote on the bill and then announced that it had been successfully reported out of committee to the full Senate. Hours later, however, the Legislative Information Systems website listed the bill as failed.

“My marriage did not start off with a loaded gun pointed to my head,” said domestic violence survivor Lisette Johnson of Chesterfield County, who testified at Monday’s hearing in support of SB 943. Johnson survived after being shot five times by her abusive husband in front of their children in 2009. “By passing SB 943, the senators on this committee have an opportunity to send a clear message that they value the lives of Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens — abused women and children. Persons with a history of violence have already demonstrated that they cannot act responsibly; they should not be allowed to keep firearms.”

Added Coalition to Stop Gun Violence executive director Josh Horwitz, “SB 943 has the potential to prevent incidents of domestic abuse from becoming domestic homicides. The only thing standing in the way of this common-sense measure is NRA largesse.”

The legislation should not be controversial. Just last year, the Courts of Justice committee approved a nearly identical bill with “Yea” votes from Chairman Norment, Sen. John Edwards (D-21st), Sen. Richard Stuart (R-28th), and Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-4th). The bill went on to pass the full Virginia Senate by a vote of 29-6.

“All eyes are on the Courts of Justice Committee at this critical moment,” said Lori Haas, Virginia state director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, who also serves as director of Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws. “We will learn a great deal about our senators’ values tomorrow, and we will make sure that their votes are known by citizens across our Commonwealth.”

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