Republican leadership declined to call a vote on gun control legislation in a special session that was requested by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam after a mass shooting at Virginia Beach left 12 people dead.
The special session was called to order on Tuesday and it adjourned shortly thereafter without votes on any of the eight gun control measures introduced by Northam. The proposed legislation will not be considered again until after the 2019 November elections.
Northam’s proposals included bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers. It would have also expanded background check requirements on firearm transactions and add additional regulations on purchases.
In the session, Republican leaders repeated their earlier reservations about the session, arguing that it was politically motivated and not an honest attempt to put an end to gun violence. Rather than rushing into legislation after a tragedy, Republicans directed the Virginia State Crime Commission to review what happened and the proposed legislation.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, said this review will provide insight necessary for crafting good legislation.
“The investigation into these events is ongoing,” the statement read. “The Virginia Beach City Council recently authorized an independent investigation into the tragedy that hopefully will provide much-needed insight. The Crime Commission should carefully review any findings that are available because of the independent investigation as part of its effort.”
The two legislators said that Northam should have directed this review, but that the “responsibility falls to us” after his inaction.
In a statement, Northam said that immediate action was necessary to address gun violence and that he expected the legislature to consider his proposals and take votes, which he said “their constituents elected them to do.”
“An average of three Virginians die each day due to gun violence,” Northam said. “That means hundreds of Virginians may die between today and November 18, the next day the legislature plans to work. It is shameful and disappointing that Republicans in the General Assembly refuse to do their jobs, and take immediate action to save lives. I expected better of them. Virginians expect better of them.”