Divided responses as bill to require Virginia schools to remind parents to safely store firearms passes state Senate

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A parent and gun rights advocate react to a bill that would require Virginia school boards to notify parents of their responsibility to safely store their firearms.

Earlier this week, Senate Bill 225 passed in the state Senate — a proposal to require Virginia school boards to annually notify parents that it is their responsibility to store their firearms safely.

State Senator Stella Pekarsky (D-Fairfax), who introduced the bill, said the proposed legislation is not meant to restrict or prevent a family’s ability to defend themselves through lawful gun ownership, but to empower parents with the knowledge needed to safely store firearms in the house.

Richmond parent Jenna Lovelace supports the bill. While she does not have a firearm at her house, she said she feels safe sending her children to their father’s home who does have a firearm, which is locked away and safe.

“It’s information,” Lovelace said about the proposed bill. “It’s being spread out to parents that maybe may not know about how to store things safely or give them a sense of peace of mind that it’s being given out to other parents.”

Provisions of the bill would require school boards across the Commonwealth to notify parents through email or text 30 days before the first day of school of the following:

  • The importance of safe firearm storage in both homes and vehicles
  • The importance of modeling safe behavior with firearms for children
  • How to discuss the presence of unsecured firearms in the homes of others
  • Information on the relevant state laws and regulations relating to safe firearm storage and child access to firearms
  • Information on firearm-related accidents, injuries and deaths, including:
    • The role of firearms in suicides, including the suicides of children
    • Tips and resources on how to help a child that may be a risk to themself or others
    • Current statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on youth firearm fatality rates

Pekarsky said she introduced the bill as part of a commitment to combat gun violence so fewer families experience its horrific reality.

“I brought SB 225 forward because, as a mother, former school board member, and educator, I am deeply troubled by the endless gun violence that our communities are facing. Too many families send their children to school in the morning and never get to hug them again,” Pekarsky said.

Some may question why the responsibility of notifying parents on the matter would fall onto the school boards.

“Schools have always partnered with parents on a multitude of issues, from vaccines to the opioid crisis, so this annual notification will be another opportunity for families and schools to work together,” Pekarsky said.

However, Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League told 8News some of the bill’s components step out of the enforcement of the law.

“We objected [the bill] on the principle that this is [a] government advocating for a position on guns and one that we would view as anti-constitutional,” Van Cleave said.

The bill passed in the Senate chamber with a vote of 23-16.

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