Last week kicked off with the largest rally I have ever seen at the Capitol. More than 22,000 people gathered to show their support for the 2nd Amendment. The rally was prompted by a slew of gun control proposals being advanced by the new Democrat majority.

There is a fundamental difference between most Democrats and Republicans on what needs to be done to reduce crime and keep people safe. Republicans tend to believe that people are safer if they can possess a gun to defend themselves and others; Democrats tend to think banning guns will keep people safe.

I may be biased, but evidence proves the Republican point. Localities with strict gun control laws tend to have higher violent crime rates than those that do not.

Someone with criminal intent will not obey gun control laws or gun free zones. In fact, most mass shootings have occurred in gun free zones. This is because the perpetrator can be reasonably sure that they will be the only one with a gun; giving them free run to inflect as much damage as possible before police arrive.

These situations usually end when the shooter is confronted by another armed person, normally law enforcement. One way to limit the loss of life is to allow law abiding citizens to carry a gun to defend themselves and others. That can greatly reduce the time that the shooter has to inflict harm.

A good example of this was a recent church shooting in Texas. An individual opened fire during a church service killing two. Fortunately, several of those in attendance were armed and killed the shooter. The quick response limited the number of victims, it would have been much worse if the church had been a gun free zone.

While we frequently hear about the criminal use of guns in the news, we rarely hear about the defensive use of guns to protect life and prevent crime, which is estimated to be 2.5 million times a year nationwide. Making it more difficult for law abiding citizens to carry a gun will actually increase crime, not reduce it.

Back in the 1990’s, under the leadership of Governor George Allen, Virginia passed several tough on crime laws including the abolition of parole. Since then, our violent crime rate has declined. Virginia has the second lowest crime rate and the lowest rate of recidivism — offenders committing crimes again — in the nation. In fact, gun violence in the US is approaching a three decade low.

Gun violence statistics include suicides as well as criminal activities. More than two thirds of all Virginia gun deaths are suicides. That does not make any death less of a tragedy, but what Democrats propose will not help. What will help is better mental health treatment.

At the same time that Democrats want to make it harder for law abiding citizens to carry a gun, they are working to soften sentences for criminals and bring back parole — which will let dangerous criminals back onto the streets before they finish their sentences.