WINCHESTER — The attitudes of local elected officials toward gun control are unchanged following the deaths of 12 people in Virginia Beach from a shooting rampage committed by an employee of that city on Friday.
According to wire services, DeWayne Craddock, a civil engineer for the utilities department, used two .45 caliber handguns to kill other government workers in a public office building. At least one of the guns was outfitted with a suppressor (or silencer), which is used to stifle and alter gunshot noise. He also used high-capacity magazines.
Each year, when the General Assembly convenes in Richmond for its legislative session, Democrats propose what they call “common-sense” gun control measures such as banning gun accessories like large-capacity magazines and expanding background check requirements. The legislation is routinely declined by Republicans in House of Delegates and Senate committees. Democrats have also tried unsuccessfully to restore the limit of purchasing one handgun per month, which was repealed in 2012.
State Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville, said in an email on Monday that she was “horrified by what happened” in Virginia Beach but wary of proposals that “would restrict the lawful exercise of Second Amendment rights.”
“This should not be political and it does not change my position on Second Amendment rights,” Vogel said. “The two things that have been suggested are letting localities make government buildings gun-free zones and a limit on magazines. Neither would impact an employee entering the building intent on murdering his colleagues.”
Del. Chris Collins, R-Frederick County, did not respond to calls seeking comment on Monday. Del. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton, declined to comment when reached by phone.
Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, said she felt mounting “frustration” because of the General Assembly’s inaction.
Gooditis said she believes the commonwealth can limit gun violence while not infringing on gun ownership overall.
“It’s not the same as taking someone’s hunting rifle ... or handgun for protection,” she said of proposals to limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds or eliminate the sale of gun accessories such as suppressors, the use of which can cause confusion and delay emergency response in a crisis. “Why would you need a silencer?”
When a mass shooting takes place in the United States, some gun-rights proponents argue that the real problem is mental illness and that more resources should be allocated for diagnoses and treatment.
But even a robust and well-funded network of public mental health providers wouldn’t be able to guarantee that everyone needing treatment will receive it, said Mike Elwell, CEO of Northwestern Community Services, a publicly-funded behavioral health agency serving the northern Shenandoah Valley.
“You don’t know who is out there not seeking treatment,” Elwell said.
And not everyone who decides to shoot other people is mentally ill, Elwell said.
Elwell used to work in Broward County, Fla., where 17 students and staff members were shot to death and another 17 injured at Stoneman Douglas High School by former student Nikolas Cruz on Feb. 14, 2018. Elwell said he remains close with officials at Henderson Behavioral Health, the largest mental health provider in that county, which reportedly treated Cruz more than a year before the shooting.
Earlier this year, a Broward County judge threw out a lawsuit against Henderson Behavioral Health that claimed it was negligent for not doing more to inform police and the school system that Cruz was dangerous.
“They were not able to forecast the future,” Elwell said. “You just don’t know.”
Preventative mental health treatment aimed at youth “can be very effective,” Elwell said.”But that doesn’t mean you catch everybody.”
Gooditis said that, as of Monday, there was no reported indication that Craddock had a history of mental health issues.
Gooditis said she agrees that the commonwealth needs more resources allocated for mental health services, but they will be most effective coupled with gun control measures.
“I say we need it all.”