Assembly 2011: Legislators try to fight human trafficking; gun show loophole again takes the spotlight
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is looking to fight human trafficking ... and Delegate Jennifer McClellan again is trying to close Virginia’s gun show loophole.
Among the anti-human trafficking proposals being offered this year by legislators from both sides of the aisle is a bill to increase the state’s existing safety net for juveniles from 15 to 17, another to require exotic or adult entertainment providers to visibly display information on how to report suspected trafficking to the proper authorities and one that would establish a framework to help victims apply for state and federal benefits.
James Dold is Policy Council for the Players Project, an international organization dedicated to ending human trafficking.
Dold: There are more slaves held in captivity today than at any other time in the history of the world. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery where individuals are forced or subjected to forced labor or sexual servitude. Victims suffer a horrific life in which they are repeatedly beaten, raped, starved, chained or locked up. The state department estimates that there are roughly 12.3 million slaves in the world today. Internationally, it's between 600,000-800,000 persons are trafficked over international borders every year, 70 percent of which are women and 50 percent of them are children. Up to as many as 60,000 individuals at a minimum are trafficked into the United States on an annual basis. It is also important to note that human trafficking is a crime that just does not affect foreign nationals; this is a crime that affects US citizens. Between 100-300,000 US children are at risk every single year of being sexually exploited by human traffickers.
Republican Delegate Tim Hugo of Fairfax.
Hugo: Sometimes I think you probably see a lot of us debating on a lot of issues; we come from divergent parts of the commonwealth, divergent parts of the political spectrum, but on these issues we are one.
In a written statement, Governor Bob McDonnell applauded the legislators for their efforts, calling human trafficking a soulless and evil practice.
In other news, Democratic Delegate Jennifer McClellan of Richmond has again introduced legislation to close the state’s gun show loophole, which allows individuals to purchase firearms at gun shows without a five-minute criminal background check.
McClellan: A recent poll by the Richmond Times Dispatch has shown that nearly 85 percent of Virginians want the gun show loophole closed. Over seventy percent of Virginians in Southwest and Southside Virginia, normally looked to as bastions of gun rights, over 70 percent of citizens in those areas want the gun show loophole closed. These people cross racial lines, party lines, regional lines, economic lines, because it makes sense.
It is my hope that we will not see another tragedy like those that occurred at Virginia Tech, Tuscon or that occur daily in many of our neighborhoods before we act to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those who are mentally ill.
McClellan notes that currently, some dealers voluntarily conduct background checks on customers, while others do not.
McClellan: I don't understand what the big deal is. I don't understand why we're gonna say as a commonwealth, if you are a felon, have a mental illness, we say you can't have a gun, and yet you can walk into a gun show, go to one booth and be denied and go to the next one and get a gun.
When you go into pretty much any festival, you have to get a band that says you’re eligible to drink. I mean, this is as simple as, you go, you get your background check, you get a band that says you passed it and then you can go buy a gun wherever. So there are ways this can be done that will not overburden any individual vendors.
Laurie Hass is with Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws and is the mother of one of those severely wounded at the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.
Hass: There are lots of people selling lots of firearms at gun shows that claim they are not engaged in the business and therefore are not required to get a license and conduct the background checks; these so-called private sellers, really, they're just unlicensed dealers. They show up week in and week out at the dozens of gun shows that occur every year in the commonwealth. They sell their firearms including semiautomatic weapons, pistols and the Glock that was used at Virginia Tech and again in Tuscon several weeks ago, sometimes not even asking for an ID to verify residency or age. Basically no check whatsoever. Does anyone with half a brain really believe that criminals are not going to these gun shows?
Time is running out for McClellan’s bill, which has not yet been scheduled to be heard in committee. Currently, seventeen states require background checks at gun shows.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square