Sen. Tim Kaine discusses school gun violence with Springfield students

As shootings continue to happen in classrooms across the country, concerned students are taking a more active role in seeing what can be done to stop gun violence.

At Key Middle School in Springfield, Virginia, students invited Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., to talk about gun violence on Tuesday. They also asked him about several other weighty issues, including immigration, abortion and the trade war with China.

Kaine provided his perspective on school gun violence, including what he called the worst day of his life, the day in 2007 when, as Virginia’s governor, he learned that 32 people had been killed at Virginia Tech.

The senator told the students that he learned a lot from dealing with the tragedy.

Key Middle School students pose with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine after he spoke with them about school gun violence. (WTOP/Mitchell Miller)

“I wish I could still stand here and tell you that it was the worst mass shooting in the United States,” he said to a quiet classroom. He noted it was an “odd thing” to say, but it was due to his hope that there would never be a worse attack.

Since the Virginia Tech attack, however, there have been deadlier shootings.

But Kaine said he still believes Virginia officials were able to learn lessons from the shooting in Blacksburg and tried to make a difference in the future. He pointed to mental health and campus safety reforms that came after the Virginia Tech shooting.

Students asked Kaine various questions about what he felt could be done to stop school violence, as well as why he doesn’t think political leaders have done more.

Kaine said he regrets that the U.S. Senate has still not gone as far as he would like with gun control restrictions, including mandating a universal background check. He thought that something would change after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

“That was my most disappointing day in the U.S. Senate,” Kaine said.

Still, Kaine told students to keep working on achieving their school safety goals. He urged them to keep talking about school safety issues with local leaders, such as members of the Fairfax County School Board.

“You don’t have to accept bad things and just say there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “Nothing will make me happier than the day when Congress stands up and says we are willing to take action to keep people safer.”

Earlier this month, a shooting occurred at a high school near Denver, not far from the deadly shooting 20 years ago at Columbine High School. A student who was killed May 7 while tackling a gunman at his school in Highlands Ranch, a suburb of Denver, was credited with saving the lives of his classmates.

More than a dozen shootings at schools have taken place this year.

Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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