Shawn Nowlin email@example.com
After being sworn in as Virginia’s junior senator in 2013, Tim Kaine said, “You learn early on as a politician that it is impossible to please everyone. As cliché as it sounds though, I am here to serve all people, regardless of if they share my perspectives or not.”
Throughout his political career, the vast majority of Kaine’s views have remained consistent, especially when it comes to gun violence. In 1998, while serving as the mayor of Richmond, Kaine regularly spoke on the role mental health plays in gun violence and community crime.
In his official capacity as a senator, Kaine gets to propose and vote on federal legislation that impacts all Americans. In April 2021 he and Senator Mark Warner introduced the Virginia Plan to Reduce Gun Violence Act (S 1155), a comprehensive package that would enact the commonsense gun safety provisions passed by the Virginia General Assembly at the federal level. After two readings, it was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Known for engaging with Virginians and responding to their concerns, on March 25, Sen. Kaine visited the Melrose Library to have an honest dialogue with area mayors, worried residents and other officials to discuss the rising violence in the community. Originally scheduled for an hour, Kaine said he would stay for as long as it took.
Participants included Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea Sr. and Councilman Joe Cobb, individuals from the Gun Violence Prevention Commission, Roanoke Valley education leaders, Roanoke City Sheriff Antonio Hash and Chief Sam Roman, among other community members.
“As I’ve always said, this isn’t just an issue in our community, it is a societal issue. We must work together to make our communities better for everyone. These types of conversations help us accomplish that goal,” Mayor Lea said.
Added the senator, “My colleagues are having these discussions in every state. We can talk about the why or why now, but the bottom line is, I do think that gun violence is connected to trauma. The last two years have been difficult in this country and around the world. We are on pace to surpass a million COVID deaths by Easter. Two years ago, that would have seemed impossible, but unfortunately, this is our reality.”
During the meeting, which lasted just under two hours, everyone in the room was given time to brainstorm ideas and share concerns on how to strengthen community safety. Among the things Kaine discussed was his experience as governor during the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. “On a local level, I have lived this. On a state level, I have also lived this,” he said.
The senator called the rise in gun violence a “public health issue,” a sentiment shared by everyone in the room. In 2021 alone, the Roanoke Valley, consisting of Salem, Roanoke City and Roanoke County, experienced more than 25 homicides. One resident at the meeting suggested that community leaders should regularly hold gatherings with teens to discuss their needs and fears. Another recommended that more incentive-based programs should be established to get weapons off the streets.
For most of his life, John Robertson, 59, has called Roanoke County home. The importance of such gatherings with our elected officials, he said, cannot be overstated. “At the end of the day, people want to be heard,” Robertson continued. “You’ll never get a true pulse of a community unless you invest in it, show that you care and listen to people’s concerns. I’m thankful Senator Kaine took the opportunity to visit us.”