State-Level Gun Violence Prevention Proposals to Be Released at UVA Forum "From Virginia Tech to the Navy Yard: New Approaches to Keeping Guns from Dangerous People"

From Virginia Tech to the Navy Yard: New Approaches to Keeping Guns from Dangerous People

The Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, which includes University of Virginia law professor Richard Bonnie, on Monday, Dec. 2, will release a report at UVA's Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy that will recommend state-level policy changes to prevent future gun violence.

November 25, 2013

A consortium of the nation's leading experts in gun violence prevention and mental health law and policy will convene at the University of Virginia to propose specific state-level policy recommendations that are meant to keep firearms out of the hands of those most likely to commit violence.

The Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy's public forum, "From Virginia Tech to the Navy Yard: New Approaches to Keeping Guns from Dangerous People," will be held Monday, Dec. 2 from 1:30-5 p.m. at UVA's Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. (Full schedule)

The event is free and open to the public, and the report's release and keynote remarks will be live streamed at

"We want to make a contribution to this debate by finding common ground on policy proposals that would really have a prospect of reducing the risk of gun violence — not only among people with mental illness, but also among other people who are at an elevated risk of gun violence," said UVA law and medicine professor Richard Bonnie, a consortium leader and national expert in mental health policy and criminal law.

Richard Bonnie
Richard Bonnie

"The time is right. These are sensible recommendations. And there's nothing that's too big a stretch," said Bonnie, who testified earlier this year before a panel convened by Connecticut's governor to make policy recommendations in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and who chaired a similar commission in Virginia after the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. "These recommendations reflect a concrete understanding of the way the mental health system actually works."

As part of the event, the consortium will release a report outlining state-level policy proposals aimed at preventing gun violence. A report making federal-level policy recommendations to Congress will be released the following week at an event in Washington, D.C.

"There's going to be a set of policies that relate to the federal background check system and we want to make that more effective," Bonnie said. "But it's not only a matter of federal law. We also think that there are important changes that need to be made to state law."

Virginia Lt. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam will deliver a keynote address at the UVA event.

It will also feature policymakers such as Virginia Sen. Donald McEachin; Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence; Lori Haas, mother of a Virginia Tech shooting victim; and leading researchers, including Bonnie, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Professors Shannon Frattaroli and Beth McGinty, and Duke University Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Jeffrey Swanson.

The consortium's policy recommendations reflect a commitment to promoting public safety while also respecting the rights and interests of people with mental illness, Bonnie said.

"Notwithstanding the impression one gets when these mass tragedies occur, people with mental illness are responsible for only about 4 percent of the violence in society," Frattaroli said. "We want to do a better job of keeping guns out of the hands of people with mental illness who are at elevated risk of violence, particularly for suicide — but we think the focus should not be exclusively on people with mental illness."

The consortium instead will make proposals aimed at identifying people who are at an elevated risk of violence via risk factors such as heaving drinking or a history of violence, particularly with guns.

"We think the background check system can be improved by focusing on certain classes of people with histories of convictions for drunk driving and violent misdemeanors," Bonnie said.

In addition to preventing people with elevated risk factors from obtaining firearms, the consortium will also propose ways to allow people to restore their gun rights after they are no longer considered a risk after successful treatment.

Also at the UVA forum, Batten students will present five case studies of legislative efforts in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

"Was it possible to find common ground to make progress on these issues in some states? Why was it not possible in other places? So they found out who the stakeholders were, what worked, what didn't work and why," Bonnie said. "There's an opportunity to learn from recent experiences at the state level."


Monday, Dec. 2, 1:30-5 p.m.
Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
Garrett Hall, 235 McCormick Road

1:30-1:40 p.m.
Introduction of event and consortium members

1:40-1:50 p.m.
Introduction and change in personal beliefs about policy action from a survivor's perspective
1:50-2 p.m.
Summary of report recommendations
2-3 p.m.
Summary of research and evidence
3-3:20 p.m.
Keynote address by Virginia Lt. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam
3:20-3:35 p.m.
3:35-3:45 p.m.
Virginia Sen. Donald McEachin
3:45-4:45 p.m.
Student presentations on lessons learned from other state and federal efforts, and ways forward for current policy actions
4:45-5 p.m.
5 p.m.
Reception with light refreshments and drinks
Note: Schedule times subject to change

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