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Listen up, gun owners, especially if you're a Republican. Each of us has powerful leverage to affect legislation in Virginia right now. It only takes a few keyboard clicks and quick voicemails. 

Oh, and it will also require your conviction that you're a thinking voter, not a cartoon drawn by addled extremists in Washington and in our state legislature who ignore their own constituents. 

The tragic, as we've learned again this week, is now commonplace. And when mass shootings occur in Virginia or elsewhere we gun owners are made to seem as if we're absolutely opposed to firearm safety measures. Those are falsehoods.

Most Virginians, including most National Rifle Association members and Republicans, agree by wide majorities, just as you do, that we need sane gun laws.  But someone forgot to tell area Republican state legislators. Offer them your most pointed encouragements. You could ask their November election opponents for their positions, too. Vote accordingly.

Several surveys have found that most NRA members — some have found as many as 7 in 10 — support universal background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun. Don't trust polls? Good. How about one conducted by the Republican pollster Frank Luntz? He now advises the Trump administration. 

After the Sandy Hook school massacre, a Luntz survey of hundreds of NRA members found that 87% agree that guns should be kept out of the hands of criminals.NRA members also support, by margins of 63% to 79%, background checks for every gun purchase, requiring owners to report to police when guns are lost or stolen and minimum standards for "concealed carry" permits. A Christopher Newport University policy poll recently found that Virginians aren't much different:  "Overall support for specific gun control policies show general bipartisan agreement," their report summarizes. 

After the slaughter of 12 city employees in Virginia Beach — the latest chapter in our growing book of tragedies — a special legislative session was adjourned without action after two hours. The 2019 regular session saw dozens of reasonable gun control bills stifled in committees.

Is that really the way you want this conversation to go? Firearms killed more than a thousand Virginians in 2018 — about three a day, including children. During the past 10 years, gun violence has killed more than 600,000 American civilians — more than all combat fatalities in World War II.

Meanwhile, people who pretend to speak for gun owners call folks who worry about mass shootings  "radical and opportunistic puppets" and "craven gun-grabbing zealots." Colorful, but are they describing you? Didn't think so.  Make sure your legislators know that you're ready for gun safety legislation immediately — and you expect them to fight for it.

You can find and get in touch with them instantly online.  It's always better to make contact or visit now, before the frantically busy General Assembly session begins in January.  

You can also write to the Virginia Crime Commission here, or at 1111 East Broad St., Suite B036,Richmond, VA 23219. The commission collecting citizen opinions about reasonable gun safety laws to pass along to the legislature.

Richard Keene, a 51-year-old gun owner from Chesterfield, told a reporter that he felt the Governor's special gun control session turned out to be “a lot of hype for nothing.”

He said, “I don’t feel like the common, normal person, the normal American, is represented anymore...there is some common ground for the common good that all of us could work toward."  The take-home word for you and me: "work." Do it now.


Stephen Nash is a visiting senior research scholar at the University of Richmond, and the author of the book Virginia Climate Fever, published by the University of Virginia Press.

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