Gun Rights and Gun Violence

Aww, geez!

Aww, geez!

I recognize this is a hot-button issue. In fact, I’d wager this is one of, if not the first, issue page a lot of you clicked on this website. So I’ll just come out and say it— I’m a gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to bear arms, and I agree, as President Obama did, that it’s an individual right. I’d bet I know more about guns (and can outshoot) most elected officials in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Which might make you wonder— why did I receive an “F” from the National Rifle Association and VCDL?

It’s because I remember a key truth that they haven’t— we don’t have to choose between public safety and standing up for our Constitutional rights. We can have both. And anyone that suggests otherwise needs to stay far away from public office.

For those organizations, it’s not about hunting or sportsmanship or self-defense anymore, or even the Constitution. And if there was any question about that— well. I watched the self-proclaimed “defenders of freedom” ignore entirely as a law-abiding gun owner, in compliance with all legal requirements to do so, was shot to death in front of his family. I watched them look the other way as one firefighter was murdered and another nearly permanently disabled as they were desperately trying to save someone’s life. I watch them offer “thoughts and prayers” after each and every heinous act of gun violence, apparently unable (or unwilling) to do anything but shrug helplessly.

Virginia deserves better than that.


Universal Background Checks- For Free

Universal background checks are a common sense way to help reduce gun violence in the Commonwealth, helping to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, terrorists, and criminals. But as the Second Amendment is a constitutional right, those universal background checks ought to be as easy and unobtrusive to do as possible.

I know, I know- I can already hear your retort on this. Kellen, you’re saying, even the founding fathers put onerous legal restrictions on gun ownership; in fact, they expressly forbade the vast majority of Americans from owning any firearms whatsoever. And you’re absolutely right!

Which means those background checks need to be free. No Virginian should be required to pay for the background check that allows them to exercise their constitutional right. And to close the “gun show loophole” here in Virginia, the state should partner with organizers to provide background check stations at gun shows that are free of charge to the participants therein.

Improving our mental-health system

I’d bet if you looked on almost every political candidate’s gun issues page, you’ll find at least a passing mention of the mental health system. Indeed, after the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, the President of the United States did exactly that- vaguely blamed “mental health” issues before going back to ignoring the problem altogether.

Listen, I’m an emergency department nurse. You don’t need to tell me the mental healthcare system in our country is broken. I see it every single day. The ER is ground zero for that problem. I watch politicians cry crocodile tears and bleat melancholy sops to the media about the mental health system after some gun-related tragedy strikes, and grow - because nothing ever gets done. And it’s always- always- my brothers and sisters and I in emergency services who will, once again, be left to bear the brunt of this broken system.

What I want are results; concrete action to fix these problems. And to stop stigmatizing people actually suffering from mental health problems. They’re not responsible for gun violence issues. Stop saying they are. Instead, advocate for ways to fix that problem, like increasing funding for psychiatric beds, dramatically increasing the number of providers, and improving access to primary healthcare facilities in the communities people live in.

Stop radicalization and domestic terrorism

One of the catchalls we have to hear in the wake of every mass shooting is the familiar ditty of “guns don’t kill people; people do”. This Amelia Bedelia-esque attempt to ignore the point is eye-rolling at best, and disgustingly irresponsible at worst.

But even so, let’s grant the folks who say it the benefit of the doubt and agree that we have a major problem with the kind of people who are precipitating the vast majority of these incidents. Far from being lone wolves, these terrorists- almost exclusively young men- are radicalized online in chat rooms and on websites that take a sick pleasure in abetting future acts of violence, doing everything they can to train and equip people to kill.

I’m a staunch First and Fourth amendment constitutionalist, but to simply shrug and suggest we cannot do anything about people being specifically trained to conduct terrorism sprees and kill as many people as possible is insane. We need leaders who are not afraid to name this problem, to call it what it is- terrorism- and work endlessly to stop it, rather than simply offering “thoughts and prayers” while waiting sadly for another attack to happen.

Gun Violence Research

As a medical professional, my kryptonite is evidence-based, peer-reviewed research. If I find out something I believe in may not hold up to rigorous tests and scientific peer review, it doesn’t matter how strongly I believe it to be true- I have to reconsider it. If we didn’t change our practice based on new evidence, then four out of five doctors might still recommend Lucky Strikes as being safe (and great tasting!) for pregnant women.

Which is why we need to enact and fund a rigorous program through our Commonwealth’s medical research system to study gun violence and the best way to prevent it. If you, like me, want to solve the problem of gun violence with as little intrusion to our constitutional rights as possible, then robust research is the only way to get it done.

I detest “feel good” legislation of any sort, that politicians use to score cheap political points, but do absolutely nothing to improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I’ll gladly abide by whatever evidenced-based, peer-reviewed research tells me. This is one reason I support solutions such as:

  • Joining the Trump Administration to ban bump stocks at the state level, the attachment that essentially turns a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun; these were initially created as an adjunct for disabled sportsmen, and have since been perverted to be an end-around to make weapons able to go “faux auto”, and were used to devastating effect in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2017.

  • Amending “Stand Your Ground” laws to protect emergency services personnel from being killed without consequence.

  • Opposing any changes to the Undetectable Firearms Act

  • Stopping the radicalization of would-be terrorists

  • Enact a tax on all semiautomatic magazine-fed rifles (and pistols intended to mimic them) starting at a sale value of $395 and scaling up as the price of the firearm increases.

  • Opposing any attempt to enact misleadingly-named “Constitutional Carry”, or permitless concealed carry, laws, and ensuring any reciprocity granted from another state meets standards expected by Virginians

  • Restricting the sale of high-capacity magazines

  • Passing meaningful ‘Red Flag’ laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders, through which guns can be temporarily taken from individuals judged to pose an imminent threat to themselves or others.

  • Fully funding and enacting all recommendations made by the Virginia Tech Incident Review Panel

All of the issues above have robust research and evidence behind them as being meaningful steps we can take to improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. And I’m willing to abide by whatever that evidence-based research says is the best course of action.