The "Kojo In Your Community" crowd at George Mason University's Arlington campus.

The "Kojo In Your Community" crowd at George Mason University's Arlington campus.

It’s been just weeks since a U.S. Congressman was shot during practice at a Northern Virginia baseball field, and 10 years since the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, one of the worst in our country’s history. The Commonwealth’s gun laws, meanwhile, are considerably less restrictive than they were a decade ago. In communities like Arlington, neighbors have engaged deeply in debates on the issue, ranging from the economics of local gun shops to the legislative moves in Richmond.

As Virginia voters prepare for a statewide election this fall, join political analyst Tom Sherwood and the Kojo Show team for a community conversation about where the Commonwealth fits into debates about gun rights and gun violence — and how views about these issues shape broader attitudes about politics in our region.


  • Joyce Lee Malcom George Mason University’s Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law and the Second Amendment
  • Colin Goddard Virginia Tech survivor and gun control activist; @clgoddard
  • Adith Subramanian Virginia resident and gun owner
  • Joshua Horwitz Executive Director, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; @joshmhorwitz

Photos: Kojo In Your Community

Can A Virginia Community Find Common Ground About Guns?

By Katanga Johnson 

Ahead of Virginia’s statewide election this November, more than 100 Commonwealth residents gathered at George Mason University in Arlington on Tuesday to engage in a neighborhood conversation about guns rights and gun control.

The exchange took place on the very day a federal appeals court blocked the District of Columbia from enforcing strict limits on carrying concealed firearms in public. This ruling seeks to make guns available to responsible D.C. residents as a rule under the second amendment.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, was also released from hospital just six weeks after being shot during a Congressional baseball game in Alexandria.

While today’s show features a vibrant panel of guests well versed on the issue, many Virginians gathered to listen in, ask questions and expresses varying perspectives.

“We must never stop having a conversation about common-sense laws that can save lives — the safety of the Commonwealth is on the line,” said Jennifer Herrera, volunteer chapter leader at the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Other representatives from Herrera’s advocacy group took up issue with a lack of legislation to prohibit victims of mental illness in obtaining access to guns.  

“There seems to be a schism between what the American people want and what politicians want. Conversation helps close this divide,” said one representative.

Jim Atwood voiced his nuanced view to the conversation as an experienced hunter.

“I’ve had four guns, but I’m also an advocate of another constitutional protection: a right to domestic tranquility,” said Atwood, who also cited the murder of a church member as his key awakening moment to the impact of gun safety.

“In our discussion, we seem to be overlooking this law which appeared in the first paragraph of the constitution before the second amendment.”

With a clear understanding of his position on guns, Josh Karrasch feels that for any progress on the matter of guns, both sides must try to understand each other.

“Key parts to understanding the gun-safety versus gun-rights divide include an education and conversation. Education of the facts about what it means to be safe and a conversation about other points of view. The hardest of the two is a conversation,” Karrasch said.

An owner of a coffee shop and gun store, Karrasch is colloquially referred to as “the gun dude.”

The reference helps as he does his part in hosting firearm-awareness events where people can develop their mindset on the issue.

Among other concerns, some attendees proposed legislation to prohibit access to guns to persons convicted of prior offenses of domestic abuse.

Members of the National Rifle Association emphasize the rules imposed on its members in hopes of maintaining a safe society, even as gun users.

Other advocates suggested conflict resolution skills and other problem-solving techniques are more effective and reducing violence than guns.

Tune in to experience the panel, hear the responses and engage in this vital community conversation.

How has your point of view been challenged or informed by what you hear on today’s episode? Keep the conversation going by posting comments below.

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