WASHINGTON – Virginia’s Senator-elect Tim Kaine was in southwest Virginia not far from the Virginia Tech campus when he first heard news of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Friday.
“I think we owe it to those who have been so, so deeply hurt, those families. We owe it to them to really have a good discussion and reduce the likelihood of this happening again,” Kaine said in an interview with WTOP on Wednesday. “We’re not doing all we can.”
Kaine, formerly the governor of the commonwealth, says even though the National Rifle Association is located in his state, Virginians “overwhelmingly” support common sense gun regulations that he believes would help prevent future tragedies like the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook school massacres.
“There is a Second Amendment, but the Second Amendment also needs to be paired with reasonable and common sense restrictions and regulations, just like other constitutional rights,” he says.
Kaine was governor in 2007 when Seung-Hui Cho, a Virginia Tech student, shot and killed 32 people on campus. After that event, he says Virginia enacted laws that disqualified people who had adjudicated mental illness from purchasing weapons. But, he says, more still needs to be done.
“We let people walk into gun shows and buy weapons without record checks, which just opens the floodgates so that people can get guns illegally,” Kaine said. “I think common sense rules like closing the gun show loophole, looking at these high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.”
But Kaine says gun regulations alone won’t solve the problem. Mental illness is a key component in the issue.
“The facts that are coming out about the murderer in this case are that he had some mental and emotional disturbances, was deeply involved in a culture of violence, whether it’s violent video games or surrounded by weapons,” Kaine said.
“It is a multiple-pronged approach that we have to take. It is common sense rules about gun ownership and use. It is appropriate mental health systems and funding and it is also smart attention to campus and school security.”
Kaine, a Democrat, heads to Washington in January to take his new post as U.S. senator. He says he looks forward to joining the 113th Congress and hopes it will be more effective than its predecessor.
“I think the 112th Congress is going to go down as one of the least effective in the history of the country,” he says.
As for the looming “fiscal cliff,” Kaine says the key is compromise.
“One side is not going to walk over to the other and say you’re 100 percent right,” he says. “We’ve got to do this to show that people in Congress who are drawing a paycheck actually can do their jobs, find agreement and move forward.”