As they absorbed the aftershocks of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, about 150 people organized by Moms Demand Action and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence convened Monday evening in front of Alexandria City Hall for an candle light vigil and press conference.
Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is running for governor, was joined at the vigil for the victims of the Las Vegas shootings by Attorney General Mark Herring (D), whose support for gun control has drawn a barrage of NRA ads for his re-election bid, and U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), as well as several Democratic state lawmakers.
They made pleas for gun control -- and one delivered a forceful condemnation of the Republican response, particularly from GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie who said Monday it was too soon after the Sunday shootings that killed 59 people to discuss ways to reduce gun violence. Instead, Gillespie said he was praying for the dead and for more than 500 others who were injured.
"Today they are talking about thoughts and prayer because that's all they have," said Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria). "Ed Gillespie has been silent on this issue for decades, and that silence is killing us."
Northam is running neck and neck with Gillespie in the nation's marquee statewide election this year.
Several parents of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre spoke at the vigial, giving emotional remarks between long, tearful pauses.
Northam, a pediatric. neurologist, shared stories he has frequently told on the campaign trail about treating children who had accidentally been shot and, his voice breaking, he spoke of a woman he had cared for as a toddler who was killed by her husband.
"Until I do not have any more breath in my lungs, I will stand up and tell people that we do not need assault weapons on our streets," said Northam. "I will continue to stand up, I will continue to fight, I will continue to be proud of my F grade with the NRA."
The NRA, which has endorsed Gillespie and awarded him an A rating, plans to run political advertising worth more than $750,000 between Oct. 10 and the Nov. 7 election.