RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Special Session on gun control came to an abrupt end. Lawmakers adjourned after just two hours without considering any proposed gun control measures.
A motion to adjourn and reconvene Nov. 18 was put forward and passed by House Republicans 50 to 46 before Democrats had a chance to object. The Senate passed the same measure. November 18 falls a week after the Nov. 12 election, when all House and Senate seats are up for grabs.
House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said now all of the proposed bills, both Democratic and Republican, will be sent to the Crime Commission to be studied.
“We’re going to send the bills from both sides to the Crime Commission, let them look at them and then obviously we’ll come back and make decisions in November,” Cox said.
“We are, all 100 of us, elected here for a reason and to abandon our responsibility when we had an opportunity to pass bills that would save lives, I’m just incredulous and I think we all should be,” House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn said.
Even before the adjournment, drama played out within the Republican Party. After Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-Williamsburg) proposed banning guns in all local government buildings, Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) announced he’d resign as Majority Whip in opposition.
“In Virginia Beach, they already banned guns in that building. They banned suppressors and extended magazines. It didn’t stop that shooter from harming people, killing people,” Stanley said.
Then Norment pulled the bill, saying he had reconsidered it.
“I expect the Crime Commission, which independently looks at all these bills, they’re going to make recommendations on objective and evidentiary standards, and at that time I think the Crime Commission will act on it,” Norment said.
The commission will consider all bills proposed, from Democratic proposals to ban on assault style weapons and silencers, to Republican bills mandating the reporting of workplace violence and social media threats, to a proposal to allow prosecutors to cut sentences for prisoners who reveal gun trafficking and gang activity, much like the Federal Rule 35.
“That will help local prosecutors, local law enforcement go out and find these guns, find these criminals, find these activities, and be able to do the investigation and get these guns off the street,” said Delegate David Yancey (R - Newport News), who proposed the bill.
Governor Ralph Northam issued a statement in response to the Session’s adjournment:
"I called legislators back to Richmond for this special session so we could take immediate action to address the gun violence emergency that takes more than a thousand Virginians’ lives each year. I expected lawmakers to take this seriously. I expected them to do what their constituents elected them to do—discuss issues and take votes.
"An average of three Virginians die each day due to gun violence. 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.”
The National Rife Association also issued a statement:
“The National Rifle Association has a long history of working to reduce violent crime rates within the Commonwealth of Virginia. We commend the House and Senate Republican leadership for renewing the focus on putting violent criminals behind bars and a much needed refocus on mental health initiatives. Without a final report on the Virginia Beach investigation, this special session by Gov. Northam was a complete taxpayer-funded distraction. The discussion before the Virginia Crime Commission should focus on solutions that provide strong due process and puts a stop to the continued politicization of law abiding individual’s constitutional rights.”
The Crime Commission is expected to meet in August and make recommendations to the General Assembly before it reconvenes Nov. 18.
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