RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Sen. Tim Kaine is bringing the national gun debate to Virginia.
On Monday morning, he was surrounded by members of the Richmond group of Moms Demand Action for a round table discussion.
Moms Demand Action is a nonpartisan grassroots movement of mothers from across the country demanding action to address gun violence.
They were there to talk about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and what lawmakers — and others — can do moving forward.
Kaine kicked off the round table by talking about his experience with gun violence.
“This is just a sickness that we have as a society in every corner of our country,” he said.
It’s something he has dealt with since his first stint in public office. He was a Richmond City Council member when the city was ranked one of the deadliest in the nation.
Fast forward to April of 2007 and Kaine was governor during the shootings at Virginia Tech.
“Which is like the worst day of my life and always will be,” said Kaine.
Kaine helped strengthen the background record check system following that shooting.
In Richmond, he said focusing on one handgun a month legislation, community policing and Project Exile helped reduce the homicide rate by more than half during his time on council.
“We had set a goal of trying to reduce it by a third and we exceeded it,” said Kaine. “We didn’t eliminate homicide. There’s still too much violent crime in our city, but we showed we could reduce it.”
Kaine is a gun owner himself. He said he supports the 2nd Amendment but believes there are measures that can be taken to strengthen safety.
“I am a complete believer in the Constitutionality of weapons, but I also know just like every other part of the Constitution there’s an understanding that, if we’re going to live together in society, there have to be reasonable rules.”
After the recent shooting in Florida, Kaine said he is supporting three key issues he believes could make a difference.
The first is comprehensive background checks. He said, of all three, this one is most likely to find support from Congress due to its popularity.
“I think that’s the one that’s so important to focus on first. It’s not going to be the complete solution,” he said. “I certainly learned through the painful Virginia Tech experience that, when background checks are weak, the chances of these disasters occurring are greater.”
The second is limiting high-capacity magazines.
“So often these mass shooting instances are only stopped when somebody is changing out a magazine. So if you have smaller magazines, frankly law enforcement has more ability to get in and interrupt a mass shooting,” he said.
The third issue is a ban on assault weapons.
“We had that ban in place in the 90s through the early 2000s and I think it had a positive effect,” he said. “I don’t think we should have let it expire.”
During the round table, Kaine heard from a local teacher who expressed concerns about the recent talk of arming educators.
President Donald Trump has said highly-trained teachers with concealed guns could serve as a deterrent to future school shootings.
Kaine said it is not something he would get behind, though he is open to the discussion of more trained security at school.
Lynne Harrison is a member of Richmond’s chapter of Moms Demand Action.
She has been interested in gun reform since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
She said she attended Monday’s event to listen and get educated on the issues.
“I realize how complicated all of the issues are and the variables and the tentacles that need to be addressed in order to make our society safer,” said Harrison.
She thinks Kaine will head back to D.C. better informed about what some of his constituents want to see happen, too.
“A lot of the questions that were posed by the people who were here today were really intelligent questions that probably give him food for thought,” she said.