Last week, the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) published their legislative priorities for school safety, including two key measures to mitigate gun violence in schools across the state. In the priorities, the VSBA states their support for allowing local school boards to prohibit guns at all school-related functions, as well as their support for cooperation between state government, local communities, law enforcement agencies, and schools to engage violence intervention programs.
The release of these priorities comes at a critical time. New analysis from Everytown shows that the first half of the 2021-2022 school year had the most gun violence in recent history; between August 1 and December 31, there were 136 instances of gunfire on school grounds — nearly four times the previous average for that period.
Gun violence has touched campuses across the country, including schools in Virginia. In 2021 there were at least eight incidents of gunfire on school grounds in the state, resulting in one death and four injuries. Just this month, students at Bridgewater College were ordered to shelter in place during an active shooter situation. While no students were physically injured, two campus police officers were shot and killed.
Volunteers and school boards have also been taking the lead in prioritizing action on gun safety. Following advocacy and leadership from Moms Demand Action volunteers, the Fairfax County School Board — serving the largest school district in the Commonwealth of Virginia — announced in December that its Superintendent will distribute Be SMART information to educate parents about the importance of secure firearm storage in reducing the risk of gun violence among children and teens. Following the announcement, students in Fairfax County joined over 2 million others across the country who live in school districts that have adopted secure storage awareness policies for parents.
In an average year, 1,065 people die by guns in Virginia, and 2,050 more are wounded. Guns are the leading cause of death among the state’s youth population; an average of 96 children and teens die by guns every year. Gun violence costs Virginia $7.1 billion each year, of which $292.5 million is paid by taxpayers. More information on gun violence in Virginia is available here.