The Dixie Pig was my grandmother's favorite restaurant on U.S. 1 formerly located across from Beacon Mall where a Rite Aid now stands.

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The Dixie Pig Blog

  • Weekly Column: Voluntary Background Check System is a Failure

    Weekly Column: Voluntary Background Check System is a Failure

    In 2016, the General Assembly enacted a legislation requiring the Virginia State Police to staff gun shows and be available to conduct voluntary background checks upon request by private, non-federally licensed gun sellers as part of a broader compromise on concealed weapon permits.  The law has been a total failure.

    The legislation required the state to spend $300,000 to hire three new Virginia State Police employees to be present at all gun shows.  What have we got for our $300,000?

    In January, The Daily Press reported that as of January 1, 2017, one person was denied a purchase at 41 gun shows after thirty nine checks.

    This week, the Richmond Times Dispatch Reported that since that time, only 18 more checks were performed in the next six months ending June 30, 2017.  In other words, in 77 gun shows there were 59 voluntary background checks.  At 45 of 77 shows, no checks at all were requested. As of today, one buyer was denied.

    During the same period of time, Virginia conducted 39,738 background checks by federally licensed gun dealers at gun shows that resulted in 325 denials.

    The Richmond Times Dispatch obtained an estimate 15 to 20 private sales occur at each of these gun shows.  The RTD went on to note that if you assume the same rejection rate for private sales that than in sales by federally licensed buyers, you would have expected to see 9 to 13 additional rejections.

    However, this fails to account for the fact that people who know they cannot legally purchase a gun from a federally licensed dealer are much more likely to opt for the private sale because they know there is no check.   The reality is that private sales probably have much higher potential rejection rates. 

    Someone ought to be asking why did the rate of voluntary background checks drop by from 39 in the first six months to 18 in the next six.  Second, we ought to be asking ourselves whether it is a prudent investment of taxpayer resources to spend $5,084 per background check or $300,000 to stop one sale per year? 

    The bottom line is that if you cannot legally purchase a gun in Virginia it is still easy to get one - go to a private seller.

    This is why we need to pass the legislation that I proposed last year (SB1439) requiring a check on every gun transfer in Virginia excluding family members, guns bequeathed at death, transfers required to prevent great bodily harm, or temporary transfers in the presence of the owner.  Polls repeatedly show that Virginians - including gun owners - support universal background checks by over 85%.   

    No one wants to prevent a law abiding mentally stable Virginian from purchasing a firearm, and we have had twelve months to see if the voluntary background check experiment would work.  It does not and it is now clear more than ever that mandatory background checks are the best solution to keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. 

    It is an honor to serve as your state senator.  You can reach me at if you have any feedback.

  • Weekly Column: Time for Local Governments to Invest in Early Voting

    Weekly Column: Time for Local Governments to Invest in Early Voting

    The following is my column that will appear in the Mt. Vernon Gazette, Springfield Gazette, The Mt. Vernon Voice, and the Potomac and Stafford Locals in the week of July 10, 2017.
    Time for Local Governments to Invest in Early Voting
    In Virginia, we have a elections every year.  This year, we even have three including a special election for school board on August 29 and then elections for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and State Delegate on November 7.
    Turnout in our state and local elections plummets. In my experience, a large reason is that voting takes precious time away from jobs and families and given Northern Virginia traffic, time is at a premium.
    That's why I have been encouraging everyone to vote by mail. Most people do not realize how easy it is and most people also do not realize they are even eligible.  If you work outside Fairfax County, if you cannot stand in line for long periods, are an out of town college student, on vacation or leaving the County for ten minutes on election day, a first responder, or have a commute and workday longer than eleven hours, you can vote early by mail.
    Last year, over 120,000 Fairfax County citizens either voted early in-person or voted by mail.  There is no reason that should not happen every year and in larger numbers.
    While I fully support no excuse early voting, that has yet to pass in Richmond for political reasons.  But there are things that our local government here in Fairfax County could do to make voting early easier.
    First, I developed a website that allows voters to submit applications to vote early electronically to the Fairfax County Registrar.  It takes about 2 minutes to complete online. You can use it at www.scottsurovell/votebymail.  Fairfax County could and should embed a similar tool on the official Fairfax County voting website.
    Next, we should open satellite early voting locations like the one at the Mt. Vernon and Franconia Government Centers for more days longer hours.
    We should also have more satellite voting locations. Every person getting on the Metro at Franconia-Springfield, South Van Dorn Street, or Huntington Metro can vote early.  There should be early voting stations there.  The South County Government Center should have a voting location.  The Lorton Library needs to be open more days and longer.
    Lastly, Fairfax County should provide postage prepaid envelopes for voters to return their ballots. You would be shocked how many people - especially Millennials - do not have stamps at home nowadays.
    Facilitating more early voting will require more election officers and thus more money, but shorter lines and fewer disruptions save all of us time on Election Day and encourages more participation in our democracy. Our community is a great place to live because we have such engaged citizens. Encouraging democratic participation will only make it better.
    Please email me at if you have any feedback!  It is an honor to serve as your State Senator.