Terry McAuliffe, the presumed Democratic nominee for Virginia governor, is calling for improved mental health care and greater gun control in the aftermath of Friday’s mass shooting at a Connecticut school.
In a statement issued Monday, the former Democratic National Committee chairman said the tragedy demands “a reflection on what we as a Country and a Commonwealth can do to make our children safer. For me, there are some common sense places to begin.
“First, we must prioritize the diagnosis, treatment, and awareness of mental health issues by recognizing that individuals with psychological and emotional disorders need our help instead of stigmatization. Second, I’ve said in the past and I continue to believe that there are mainstream restrictions on dangerous weapons that we can agree on including: renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban, passage of bipartisan legislation to strengthen background checks, and re-implementation of Virginia’s one-gun-a-month rule.”
McAuliffe was referring to the repeal earlier this year of a 19-year-old state law that had limited gun purchases to one per month.
He is running to succeed Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), who by law cannot succeed himself. McAuliffe’s is expected to face Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) in the general election.
Cuccinelli, who once served as a court-appointed attorney for people in Virginia’s involuntary civil commitment process, has actively worked on those issues, according to spokesman Brian J. Gottstein.
“In 2008, working in a bipartisan manner, then-Senator Cuccinelli pushed through a bill to ease the process for involuntary commitment, to restrict gun ownership rights for those found mentally ill, and to help break down barriers for sharing information between doctors and our court system,” Gottstein said.
In a statement, Cuccinelli said: “The issue of mental illness is one that we have seen play a role time and again in this and several other shootings. As a lawyer in private practice, I was a legal advocate for the mentally ill; and as a senator and attorney general, I have been a vocal advocate for mental health issues and the proper treatment of the mentally ill. Thus, I am very familiar with this issue.
“It will be important in the weeks and months ahead to have discussions within Virginia and around the country how we can better identify those who may be a danger to themselves and to others, find appropriate ways to intervene, and get them the help they need before things escalate to tragic consequences.”