The Virginia legislature will convene on July 9 for a special session to address gun violence and potential gun control measures after a shooting in Virginia Beach killed 12 people about a week ago.
Gov. Ralph Northam called the session despite receiving opposition from House and Senate Republican leadership. The Republicans have a two-seat majority in both chambers.
Although specific legislation has not been introduced, the governor announced that legislators will consider several policy reforms, which include universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and a ban on bump stocks and suppressors. The legislature will also look into a one-gun-per-month law, child access prevention and legal requirements for reporting lost and stolen firearms.
In Northam’s initial press conference that called for a special session, he said that thoughts and prayers are needed, but that they are insufficient.
“No one should go to work, to school, or to church wondering if they will come home,” Northam said. “But that is what our society has come to, because we fail to act on gun violence… I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.”
Republicans criticized Northam for calling a special session without first having legislation to vote on. GOP leaders in the House and the Senate both accused him of politicizing the shooting.
“By calling the General Assembly into special session absent a specific plan or legislative package that hasn’t already been considered,” Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, said in a news release. “The Governor’s actions today are in stark contrast to the deliberative approach employed by then-Governor [Tim] Kaine after the murders at Virginia Tech. Disappointingly, this governor has opted for political posturing over solutions.”
House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, released a statement that said a special session would be more likely to “inflame political tensions” than lead to a legislative solution.
Leaders in both chambers, however, said that they will convene the special session and will give all proposed legislation its proper consideration.