Ken Biberaj is a member of the board of directors of the Democratic Business Council of Northern Virginia.
On Tuesday, Virginians will turn out at the polls with the opportunity to flip both houses of the legislature from Republican to Democratic hands. One of the top issues that is expected to be addressed if the Democrats take control of the legislature will undoubtedly be common-sense gun reform. In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach this year, Virginia’s Republican lawmakers voted to adjourn a special session to address gun violence after just 90 minutes, without even holding a hearing.
Since that session and in the aftermath of El Paso, Dayton and the gun violence happening every day in this country, a strong voice of reason and action has been heard, not from state capitols or Congress, but rather from the private sector. Unlike ever before, business leaders and corporations are actively stepping forward to propose and support bold and substantive action to keep their customers, employees and communities safe. Recent polling suggests that there is broad and bipartisan public support for the private sector to advocate for gun violence prevention.
From Walmart to Wegmans and ALDI to CVS, businesses across the nation have stepped forward to stand on the side of public safety by announcing prohibitions on open carry in their stores. Beyond ending the sale of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines in its stores, and requiring any gun buyer to be at least 21 years of age, Dicks Sporting Goods went so far as to destroy $5 million worth of assault rifles instead of returning them to their manufacturers. Dick’s chief executive Edward Stack stated, “If we really think these things should be off the street, then we need to destroy them.” Moreover, just last month, 145 business leaders representing some of the nation’s leading corporations sent a letter to the U.S. Senate urging lawmakers to pass a bill requiring background checks on all gun sales and a strong red-flag law.
When Washington is paralyzed with inaction, it is incumbent on state governments and the private sector to respond to the overwhelming public support for common sense gun safety measures. Walmart chief executive Doug McMillion had previously shown leadership on preventing gun violence by halting the sale of assault-style weapons and raising the age requirement for purchasing a gun to 21. He took a step further recently by announcing that Walmart would stop selling ammunition for handguns and assault weapons as well as prohibiting weapons in Walmart stores, even in “open carry” states.
Across the country, it is becoming clear that if families and businesses collectively demand action on gun safety, then our elected officials will act. Gun safety is no longer an ancillary issue to be considered; it should be a primary voting issue. In fact, a recent Post poll found that gun safety was the No. 1 issue in Virginia. The Democratic Business Council is committed to advocating for pro-growth policies that increase access to opportunity for more Virginians and strengthen our economic standing. To that end, we see addressing gun violence with a Democratic legislature in 2020 as one of the best outcomes possible for the business community in this election.