VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — For weeks, we’ve seen adults and teenagers gunned down across Hampton Roads.
We’ve been to the rallies and the vigils, but on Thursday, U.S. Representative Elaine Luria (D, 2nd District) addressed the rise in gun violence at a town hall.
She took questions from the crowd that ranged from raising the minimum wage, to the January 6th insurrection, to Critical Race Theory.
The night ended on a somber note, about the rise in gun violence all over the country and right here in Hampton Roads.
"It’s heartbreaking to see these stories and I’ll say the children have been younger and younger that we’ve seen these reports over the last few weeks. Teenagers and young children," Luria said.
On the national level, she said Congress needs to take “the first step.”
"How can we do something? In Congress, we can start with the most simple thing of passing universal background checks," Luria told the crowd of about 70 people. "I think that it is something that the overwhelming majority of Americans support."
Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate told the crowd they are working hard on the local level.
"It is a very small segment of individuals that repeatedly pull the trigger," he said. "We do have small pockets of groups and gangs in Hampton Roads that do drive our violence and we don’t want to hold the entire group or gang accountable because not everybody in that group or gang is pulling the trigger."
He said his department is working closely with the FBI, the ATF, and the other police departments in the area.
"As law enforcement, we have to be extremely laser-focused in our investigative efforts," Neudigate said. "We do not want to go into our communities and be seen as an occupying force."
He said the way they police has changed.
"We like to say we’re really fishing with a spear now, instead of that net because we do not want to catch individuals that may be involved in low-level crimes in our net and possibly impair their future. But we do have to hold those individuals that are repeatedly pulling the trigger accountable."
The Chief said right now, they are working with the ATF to bring the state’s first Crime Gun Intelligence Center to Virginia Beach. On top of that, he said they are close to having their own National Integrated Ballistic Network in the city, also courtesy of the ATF.
Before that is operational, Neudigate said they'll still have to rely on the lab in Norfolk, which can take up to six months to return results.
"We will have results in the hands of our investigators within 72-96 hours," he said about their new lab.
Rep. Luria told both the police chief and the crowd she’s glad to see these different agencies working together because there are no boundaries for criminals between Norfolk, Virginia Beach, or anywhere else in Hampton Roads.
Along with rising crime, the Congresswoman also spoke about her new role on the bipartisan Select Committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection. One person in the crowd asked how we make sure something like that never happens again.
Luria said the investigation is huge, with over 400 people already identified from that day. She said next they are planning to speak with Capitol Police officers about what they experienced.
Someone else at the town hall wanted to hear the Congresswoman's thoughts on Critical Race Theory being taught in schools.
She told the crowd, the bottom line is curriculum needs to reflect "respect." She said the GOP needs to "turn down the volume," because it is distracting educators from teaching their students.