by Brandon Jarvis

Del. Rodney Willett (D-Henrico) and Sen.-elect Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-Henrico) filed companion bills to hold parents accountable if a child uses their firearm.

The legislation would impose a class one misdemeanor on a firearm owner if a minor uses their weapon to commit a crime, brings it onto school premises, or intentionally or with gross negligence causes bodily injury and harm to themselves or another person.

“We can and must do more to keep our kids safe from senseless gun violence here in Henrico, the Commonwealth, and across the nation,” VanValkenburg said. “We know that when responsible gun owners store their firearms and ammunition safely, it reduces both intentional and accidental firearm injury and death.”

The bill would also make it a felony if the firearm owner knows or reasonably should have known that the child within close proximity to the weapon has been charged, convicted, or adjudicated of a violent crime or the subject of a school-initiated threat assessment where the threat is moderate, high, or eminent.

The legal definition of close proximity is within any real or personal property where a minor and a firearm are present, including a dwelling where the minor is a resident or guest, a boat, or a motor vehicle.

“I have met hundreds of families while representing Henrico County,” Willett said. “Parents are concerned about their children’s safety and know that the misuse of guns is the number one threat to their lives. We need to pass this law and do all that we can to keep our kids and their schools safe.”

In March of 20221, 13-year-old Lucia Bremer was shot nine times by 14-year-old Dylan Williams after walking home from school in Henrico County. Williams used the gun owned by his 52-year-old legal guardian to commit the murder.

Williams pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder earlier this year.

The man who owned the gun was found not guilty of any crimes related to the murder.

“Our 13-year-old daughter Lucia was shot nine times while walking home after playing with friends at school,” said Jonathan and Meredith Bremer, the parents of Lucia Bremer“Dads in our neighborhood tried to save her life, but she died on the floor of a garage as Meredith stroked her hair and whispered into her ear. Lucia is dead, in part, because a gun owner chose to leave his semi-automatic handgun easily accessible to his troubled teenager, who he knew to be a danger to others. Our family and our community were shocked to learn that under Virginia law, this gun owner could not be held accountable in any way.”

Henrico County School Board called on state lawmakers to address the safe storage of weapons and hold parents accountable to prevent guns from entering school buildings.

“The Henrico County School Board and school administrators continue to be proactive in promoting safe schools and student wellness in partnership with our community,” said Kristi Kinsella, chair of the Henrico School Board. “Consistent with our adopted legislative priorities, as a school board, we support legislation that promotes safe storage of weapons and acknowledges the important role families have in building a stronger and safer community.”

The legislative session begins Jan. 10.

“These minors need to be held accountable for their crimes, but the gun owners also need to face consequences when they choose not to manage their firearms in a responsible way,” the Bremers said. “Gun owners across our Commonwealth need to re-evaluate the manner in which their firearms are stored; they need to ensure that minors cannot access their weapons; and they need to know that failure to be a responsible gun owner will result in criminal penalties.”

By vascope