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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam: Shooting Tragedy 'Will Not Define' Community


And now we're joined by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

Governor, thanks for taking the time for us today.

RALPH NORTHAM: Yes, sir. Don, thank you for talking to me - and just a horrific tragedy here in Virginia Beach.

GONYEA: Well, I want to offer condolences to you and the Virginia Beach community. I'm wondering what you can tell us about how people are holding up. I understand you visited a hospital where some of the people wounded in the shooting are being treated still.

NORTHAM: I did. You know, this is - again, it's a horrific tragedy, and our hearts go out to certainly the 12 victims that showed up for work yesterday for the city of Virginia Beach intending to go home. And this tragedy occurred, and they weren't able to. And so there's a tremendous void in their families and our community right now. There's a lot of hurt and healing that needs to take place.

I was able to go to the hospital this morning. My intentions were twofold. I wanted to thank the caregivers, the doctors, the nurses and the administrators. And then also, I was able to speak with one of the patients and the families. And they're just such strong and faithful people and just going through what must be one of the hardest experiences in their lives. They were just very grateful for the care that they were receiving and grateful for the heroic work of the law enforcement agents yesterday.

GONYEA: Inevitably, after each mass shooting, there are calls for tighter gun laws. You introduced a number of gun control bills in Virginia's General Assembly back in January, not even six months ago.


GONYEA: Most of them were voted down, including a proposal to let localities ban guns in government buildings like the one where this shooting took place. Do you see any likelihood of political action in the Republican-controlled General Assembly?

NORTHAM: Well, Don, it's unfortunate that we have to have these tragedies to, you know, even have the dialogue regarding common-sense gun legislation. As you just said, I introduced several pieces of common-sense gun legislation both years that I've been governor, and they were defeated on the first day of the session. So this is something that I will continue to support. I will continue to explore our options.

But, you know, as we say, actions speak a lot louder than words. And I will have the leadership that's needed, but I will ask my fellow legislators to explore these options as well. And, you know, at the end of the day, we need to make sure that Virginia is safe - that our communities are safe, our schools, our movie theaters, our municipalities, like what occurred yesterday. This is - you know, this is something that - these tragedies have become all too familiar, and we cannot let ourselves become desensitized to this. We must do what the people are asking to do, and that is to move forward and make sure that our communities are safe.

GONYEA: I'd like to ask you about the coming days and how you and other officials are going to help people in your state move forward.

NORTHAM: Well, you know, there's - there are so many agencies and men and women that are giving of their time to right now, Don, help these families. I mean, this is a tremendous tragedy, and they've lost their loved ones. And we have funerals to prepare for. We have, you know, the ongoing business of Virginia Beach that needs to continue. We have a lot of friends and co-workers of these individuals that - you know, that we're helping them with counseling.

There have been a number of prayer vigils here in Virginia Beach. I attended one this morning. And those will certainly continue. But, you know, as we say in occurrences like this, it takes a village. And we just have a very strong and faithful village here in Virginia Beach that's going to try to heal as we move forward.

GONYEA: We've been talking to Ralph Northam. He's Virginia's Democratic governor.

Governor, thanks for joining us.

NORTHAM: Thank you, Don. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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