Virginia state Sen. Bill DeSteph refuses to support even the most popular gun safety measures.
After mass shootings killed more than 30 people this weekend, Virginia state Sen. Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) seemed to suggest gun safety bills were not a priority because the 9/11 terrorists didn't use guns.
"If you look at New York, the mass bombing there, from the suicide bombers, that had absolutely nothing to do with guns," DeSteph said in a Monday radio interview on the "John Fredericks Show," an apparent though inaccurate reference to 9/11, which did not involve bombs. DeSteph also cited other terrorist attacks, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
American Bridge, a Democratic-leaning research firm, found the radio clip and posted it to YouTube.
During the interview, DeSteph was asked about a variety of possible gun safety solutions to make his community safer, including extending background checks and raising the age limit to purchase certain weapons.
"Are you in favor of doing anything legislative in order to maybe take a shot that might help?" host John Fredericks asked.
DeSteph, who is a licensed gun dealer, would not support any specific measure. "It's not the time for knee-jerk reactions," DeSteph said, insisting that all options are on the table. DeSteph refused to support any specific ideas, despite the fact that a gunman killed 12 people in his own community of Virginia Beach in May.
DeSteph did suggest some possible reasons for gun violence, including a lack of school discipline and absentee fathers. He joined other Republicans around the country in casting blame for mass shootings on a wide range of issues, but not the one thing all mass shootings have in common: guns.
"DeSteph's own community of Virginia Beach was ravaged by gun violence," Gaby Goldstein, political director of the Sister District Project, told Shareblue Media. "The people of Virginia Beach deserve a state senator who will fight to keep them safe. Luckily, DeSteph is being challenged this year by Missy Cotter Smasal, a Democrat who is not afraid to stand up for gun safety and gun violence prevention."
When Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam called a special legislative session to deal with gun violence following the massacre in Virginia Beach, DeSteph was part of the Republican majority that ended the session just 90 minutes after it started, without passing a single piece of legislation.
"I'm not sure if it’s the politics or the profit he makes selling guns, but Bill DeSteph has accepted weekly mass shootings as a new way of life that can’t be changed," Matt Harringer, press secretary for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, told Shareblue.
Both of Virginia's legislative chambers are up for reelection in November, once of the few states with an election this year. Currently, Republicans hold a slight 20-19 majority in the state Senate, with one vacancy. Democrats are hoping to regain control of the chamber in a few months, and DeSteph's lack of action on reducing gun violence could help them.
The day after DeSteph's interview, Fredericks used his radio show to warn Republicans that "if you don’t do something here [on guns] you're gonna get annihilated in the suburbs in 2019." And Fredericks would know — he was Trump's 2016 campaign chair in Virginia.
Despite 2,100 mass shootings since a gunman murdered elementary school children at Sandy Hook in 2012, Republicans at the state and national level have been unwilling to act, even as mass shootings strike their own communities. For Republican like DeSteph, that refusal to take gun safety seriously could have serious consequences in November.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.