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Virginia State Senator L. Louise Lucas on the fatal Walmart shooting in her state


Let's hear next from Democratic State Senator L. Louise Lucas of Virginia. The tragedy in Chesapeake is in her district. Senator, before we get to gun control, I just want to know how Chesapeake is coping on this Thanksgiving Day.

L LOUISE LUCAS: Well, you know, holidays are really tough for some people anyway. And right now, we have - our region is in mourning because first - when it first happened, people were in shock. They were - just couldn't believe that it had come so close to home. And then once the reality set in, after the names started being released, people were in mourning. People are sad. People are fearful. I purposely went out to three supermarkets on Thanksgiving eve, just to kind of get a sense of how people were feeling. People were rushing around, still getting prepared for the holidays, but clearly, in their minds, was the tragedy just - that just happened in Chesapeake. And so people are mourning. I mean, people who didn't know any of these individuals or any of the victims are mourning.

As I was walking through the different malls, people were saying, this is such a tragic thing. When are we going to do something about gun violence protection? And that's just clearly what's on the minds of people that I've had an opportunity to speak to. They are fearful for their lives because nobody knows where the next incident is going to happen. So we are a region that's in shock. We're in mourning. It is a tough time because, as I indicated earlier, holidays are tough enough for some people. And to have this tragedy on top of all of that is just unimaginable.

MARTÍNEZ: And so on that, on solutions - because Virginia has had an awful run of shootings just in the past couple of weeks. You've said that the only real solution to mass shootings is gun control. And Democrats in your state, Senator, were able to do that in 2020. You were able to tighten control - gun control. But now Republicans control the House and the governor's office. So how possible is that now?

LUCAS: Well, I'd like to refer to it more as gun violence prevention. Gun violence prevention is the operative term for us because in order to get there, we have got to - we've got to get a grip on how we limit access to firearms to people who should not have them. Based on just some of the reports that we've got from the state police, we realize that once criminal history background checks are done, that there's a significant number of people who fall out who should not have been able - should not have firearms. And as a matter of fact, they've been denied a permit to carry. And as a matter of fact, a good number of those people who come up on that register also are in line for arrest because they know they should not even be - try to purchase a firearm. And so we've tightened the reins on firearm prevention, violence prevention, but we need to do so much more.

The bill that I introduced for universal background checks needs to be tightened up. We need to do something about firearms of mass destruction. And so there's so much more that we can do. And even President Biden said, with what he has presented, it just doesn't go far enough. So what we need to do is have legislators finally come to the reality that they are sitting back, allowing their constituents to be killed in these mass shootings because of our failure - when I say our failure, I'm talking about all elected officials - to do something to curb or curtail this violent streak that we're experiencing...

MARTÍNEZ: So, Senator, real quick. You mentioned...

LUCAS: ...Not just in Virginia, but all across the states.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. You mentioned President Biden. I know that earlier this year, Congress passed the first bipartisan gun control bill in decades. And poll after poll shows that Americans favor most of its provisions. Given a level of support like that, why do you think there is so little lawmaking on this? Just about 30 seconds, Senator.

LUCAS: OK. It is thought - it is because of the legislators themselves. They just don't have the backbone, the spine to stand up to the NRA and do what's necessary just to even save the lives of their constituents. And, again, President Biden has done a great thing, but he needs the support of his - of other elected officials.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Virginia State Senator L. Louise Lucas. Senator, happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and your community.

LUCAS: We'll do the best we can. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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