Gov. Northam sets date for special session on gun laws

Published: Jun. 7, 2019 at 11:22 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Four days after a gunman opened fire and killed 12 people at a Virginia Beach government building, Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday called for a special General Assembly session on gun laws.

On Friday, he set that date for Tuesday, July 9.

He said this week that he wants “votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers” on gun safety proposals.

The Washington Post reports that Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark R. Herring expressed frustration over the weekend that Republicans who control the General Assembly have repeatedly stifled efforts to consider any form of gun control.

The Post says that Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, was open to discussion gun controls and that “there ought to be a meaningful discussion legislatively.”

Northam told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he wants the Republican-controlled General Assembly to hear from the public about the need for “common-sense” laws related to guns and accessories.

He plans to convene a special legislative session later this summer.

Northam told the AP that recent shootings - including the death a 9-year-old girl in Richmond - are part of his reason for the special session.

“It’s an emergency here in Virginia, and it’s time to take action,” Northam said, according to the AP. “Every one of these pieces of legislation will save lives.”

The AP says Northam wants lawmakers to vote on items such as mandating universal background checks before gun purchases, limiting purchases to one handgun per month and a so-called red flag bill that would allow authorities to temporarily seize someone’s guns if they are a shown to be threat to themselves or others.

He told the AP that he’s “not playing politics. ... I’m bringing people to the special session to save lives.”

At a press conference on Tuesday, Northam and Fairfax both said “thoughts and prayers” are not enough.

“We have a serious issue and we must take serious action to resolve it,” Fairfax said.

House Speaker Kirk Cox says the governor’s call for a special session is “hasty and suspect.”

“While the governor can call a special session, he cannot specify what the General Assembly chooses to consider or how we do our work,” he said.

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