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NASW Virginia Calls for Stronger Gun Safety Regulations after Chesapeake Walmart Mass Shooting

NASW Virginia Chapter is heartbroken to learn that a shocking seven people have lost their lives and five more injured at a Chesapeake Walmart in the latest mass shooting in our state. It comes only weeks after a former student shot dead three University of Virginia football players and injured two others.


The families of these victims will never again experience Thanksgiving or the holidays with their usual traditions, always aware of the empty seat and missing laughter of a loved one gunned down far too soon.


And yet, in the midst of “thoughts and prayers,” the gun lobby and the politicians they financially support to serve their agendas will continue to excuse away the carnage and mental health harm caused by firearms.


Social workers have been fighting for stronger gun safety laws for decades, and the results include successes such as Virginia’s red-flag law. The latter empowers law enforcement officers to temporarily remove gun access and firearms from owners experiencing a mental health crisis.


At this time we don’t know details about the Walmart shooter and his mental health history or the circumstances that drove his decision to murder so many people simply shopping for the holidays.


However, we do know that whatever safeguards are in place to prevent such an individual to take these dire actions have failed. Again.


And mass shootings will continue until elected officials place the health and survival of their citizens above the financial goals and ambitions of their donors.


Even without associated deaths, studies cited by NASW show that bullet-inflicted injuries can be “physically and emotionally devastating, especially to children and teenagers. Just as important, the trauma of gun-related deaths and injuries can last a lifetime and affect not only the victims, but their families and communities.”


Children are particularly vulnerable. Research finds that one-third of American homes with children contains a gun. Of these, 4.6 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun.


As the largest group of behavioral health providers, social workers see the fallout and high risk of firearm violence first-hand in their schools, hospitals, private practices, and clients’ homes. More recently, they—like the American public--have been forced to add major department stores, dance clubs, grocery stores, and campgrounds to the list of locations at high risk of gun crime.


Last year NASW partnered with The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to diminish gun-related injuries and deaths. The two organizations are focusing on scaling state and national gun safety programs proven to reduce home-based gun deaths and injuries. As part of their efforts, they have co-published a 10-page brief outlining “Tools for Social Workers to Prevent Gun Violence: Safe Storage of Guns in the Home, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and Other Methods of Gun Violence Prevention.”


Statistics around gun violence in Virginia continue to worsen, and gun crime is now so common that we fear our society has become nearly immune to it. Many people feel helpless and hopeless that politicians will do the right thing and enact much stronger prevention, regulations, penalties, enforcement, and legislation to truly reduce gun violence.


NASW Virginia will not give up, though, even as we grieve alongside the friends, families, and communities of the November 22 shooting. We invite anyone to join us who agrees that enough is enough, and change must happen.


If you have questions, please contact Executive Director Debra Riggs, CAE, at driggs.naswva@socialworkers.org.

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