WASHINGTON -- “I want to be able to say to anyone who asks that our governor is a profile in courage,” recounted Peter Read, who lost his daughter, Mary Karen Read, during the Virginia Tech Massacre in April 2007.Read was one of five Virginia Tech family members who participated in a 30-minute conference call with Gov. Bob McDonnell this morning at 11 to discuss legislation that would repeal Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month sale law. He and Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily survived being shot on April 16, spoke to the governor from a conference room at the Westin Washington Dulles Hotel in Herndon, Virginia.
Colin Goddard, who survived being shot four times at Virginia Tech and now works as an advocate with the Brady Campaign, also participated in the call, along with his father Andrew, who joined in from his home in Richmond, and Omar Samaha, who lost his sister Reema in the shooting. Gov. McDonnell, who is attending the National Governor’s Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. this weekend and spoke from there, was joined on the call by his chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, and legal counsel.
Read said the governor opened the call by expressing his desire to hear from the families while announcing his “duty to protect the Second Amendment.”
Read and other family members reminded the governor that the law limiting dealers to selling no more than one gun per month to buyers is constitutional and does not interfere with the Second Amendment right to own and possess a gun in the home for self-defense.
Each family member explained his experience as a victim or survivor of the worst mass shooting in the history of the Commonwealth and the United States. Each spoke about how that tragedy compelled them to learn more about the state’s and nation’s gun laws and policies and how that tragedy continues to fuel their advocacy for saving more Americans from the devastation of gun violence.
Haas emphasized that the one-gun-a-month limit has succeeded in dramatically reducing gun trafficking in Virginia, which 19 years ago was dubbed the “firearms supermarket” for supplying crime guns to cities along Interstate I-95, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. She reiterated that the law has the support of the majority of Virginians (66 percent) as indicated in a poll released Feb. 19 by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Colin Goddard and Omar Samaha described their experiences buying guns at Virginia gun shows with no background checks or questions asked and argued that such easy access to guns threatens the public safety of Virginians.
The families urged the governor to act in the best interests of public safety and veto the repeal legislation. Read said his final words to the governor were: “I want to be able to say to anyone who asks that our governor is a profile in courage."
Gov. McDonnell did not indicate whether he would veto the bill now on his desk but reminded the families that he opposes guns on campus legislation and supported provisions four years ago to improve Virginia’s ability to send mental health records to the Brady Background Check system. He promised that a staffer would contact the families by Tuesday to let them know of his decision.
The meeting was in response to a letter the families delivered to the governor's office Friday morning.
Click here to read the letter from the families requesting a meeting with the governor. Signers to the letter include: Lori and Channing Haas, Andrew and Colin Goddard, Peter D. Read, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF (Retired), Father of Mary Karen Read, VT '07, and Catherine M. Read, Kevin Sterne, Derek O’Dell, Joe, Mona, and Omar Samaha