After mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, claimed the lives of 31 people, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam took to criticizing Virginia’s Republican lawmakers.
The governor wrote in a news release that he was grieving the loss of life caused by these shootings over the weekend, but then added a criticism of Republicans for not passing his gun control proposals immediately after 12 people were killed in a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia in May.
In response, Republicans are accusing him of political rhetoric.
Shortly after the Virginia Beach shooting, Northam called the state legislature to a special session to consider legislation that would ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers. The package of bills included expanded background checks and stricter purchasing regulations.
Virginia Republicans adjourned the special session after about an hour and a half without a vote. Rather, they referred the proposals to the bipartisan Crime Commission for review.
“I asked legislators for more than just their thoughts and prayers,” Northam said in a news release. “I asked them for votes and laws – votes to pass commonsense gun legislation, laws that will keep gun violence from killing more innocent people in our schools, office buildings, churches, stores, movie theaters, and synagogues.”
“Our proposals were so commonsense that this week even the President of the United States proposed passing some of them, such as background checks and an extreme risk protective order,” Northam said. “Yet Republicans in the General Assembly refused to even come to the table, leaving the special session after just 90 minutes.”
Northam said that he hopes Republicans return back to session to pass his gun control measures.
Parker Slaybaugh, director of communications for House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, told The Center Square via email that Northam is just using political rhetoric.
"Saying that Republicans ended the special session and the debate on gun violence after just 90 minutes is nothing more than political rhetoric in an election year,” Slaybaugh said. “The facts are the Special Session is still under way, only currently in recess pending the report from the bipartisan crime commission which is set to meet and take public comment on these issues in two weeks. This commission is taking a comprehensive look at protecting our communities by focusing on mental health, firearms and public safety."
Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, told The Center Square via email that the Crime Commission’s input is necessary before passing any legislation.
"All of the legislation related to curtailing gun crimes – including strengthening mental health care and diagnosis – have been referred to the Crime Commission for good reason,” McDougle said. “With those committing these horrific murders violating multiple existing local, state, and federal laws, we must consider what changes would actually curtail murders like these. The Crime Commission is best equipped to undertake a thorough and deliberate review. I will be closely following their analysis as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session.”