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Virginia Beach Mayor Says He Doesn't Want Shooting To Make People Feel Unsafe

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As Virginia Beach continues to recover from Friday's mass killing, Mayor Bobby Dyer says now is the time for prayer. He joins us now to discuss how his city is responding to the death of 12 victims. Mayor Dyer, welcome and my condolences.

BOBBY DYER: Oh, thank you. It's a privilege to be here, but I'm sorry that I have to be here.

SHAPIRO: Well, first I want to ask how people in your community are responding. I know one of the people killed was a friend of yours. How are people doing in this moment?

DYER: Well, I'll tell you what. In spite of this tragedy that was so unnecessary, I am overwhelmed and heartened by the fact that the community has engaged in so many ways. And in spite of this tragedy, we're moving forward. And I have a feeling we're going to wind up being a stronger, tighter community.

SHAPIRO: Are police still looking for a motive?

DYER: Yes. Right now we have an ongoing investigation. I'm confident that our police, which performed magnificently in conjunction with the FBI, will be coming up with something.

SHAPIRO: You've described this as an unnecessary tragedy. And I want to ask about how to prevent the next unnecessary tragedy. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said this earlier today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RALPH NORTHAM: But we must do more than give our thoughts and prayers. We must give Virginians the action they deserve.

SHAPIRO: The governor is calling for a special session to address gun control. Do you agree with him?

DYER: We have 12 families that are going to be going through funerals. And, you know, certainly this is going to spark a conversation. And I think once, you know, we get through and at the appropriate time, it would be time for people to sit down and have a rational conversation about this and, you know, to figure out what we can do in terms of prevention and safety and things.

But - and I'm not ducking the question, but I'm saying right now we're really focused on, you know, the families. And let's not forget we had a lot of employees that were in that building at the time of the carnage that we have to focus on, too. And we are a city in shock. And, you know, that's my priority right now.

SHAPIRO: Not to minimize the immediate pain and recovery that the city is struggling with, I do want to ask what that rational conversation that you describe looks like. There have been so many mass shootings in America and so many debates about how to respond, and the shootings keep happening. Can you actually envision a rational conversation that changes that cycle?

DYER: It's a polarizing subject right now. And a number of sides don't want to give in in any way, but, you know, we got to do something to promote the gun safety and to make sure that people are acting responsibly.

SHAPIRO: Do something like what? What would you like to see?

DYER: I'll tell you what. And I know this may sound high in the sky, but I think what's missing right now in a lot of our society is mutual respect and, you know, just constructive dialogue with each other and building positive bridges. You know, there's a lot of negativity out there. And, you know, once again, I just hope that incidents like this can bring people together, not separate them.

SHAPIRO: Those phrases - mutual respect, positive bridges - sound like good things. In terms of real-world policy, you've referenced gun safety, which means different things to different people. What do you think can actually change?

DYER: We've been talking about this for a number of years now, and I think we've got to somehow focus on what we have in common and what we can agree on going forward and at least get started the conversation going in a positive way. And I realize that might be, you know, kind of tough right now. I realize a lot of people are trying to help right now. And, you know, I wish I could know a way this could have been prevented, but, you know, we have to deal with the reality of what happened right now.

And I'll tell you what. I'm very proud of our city's response. It was handled professionally, but it was also peppered with compassion and empathy. And the strength of our community are the people of our community.

SHAPIRO: Mayor Bobby Dyer of Virginia Beach, thank you for speaking with us today.

DYER: Oh, thank you very much, and I appreciate it. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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