RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - the gun control bills that were not heard during last month’s General Assembly Special Session are now being given voice before the Virginia Crime Commission.
The Commission began two days of hearings today on proposals to curb gun violence plaguing the state and country, after recent mass shootings in Virginia Beach, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
The Republican led General Assembly abruptly ended the Governor’s Special Session in July, referring 78 gun control bills to the commission to study and make recommendations on before lawmakers reconvene after the November election.
As the hearing began, Democratic Commission member Delegate Charniele Herring (D - Alexandria) questioned whether the Republican led commission will provide recommendations before the November deadline.
“Many of the bills that have been put before the Crime Commission have been filed many years before. There’s been a series of bills filed. If they were really serious about looking at this, they would have been referred to the Crime Commission quite some time ago,” Herring said.
Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Shenandoah Valley) responded by saying, “I anticipate we’ll have a report before that time.”
Governor Ralph Northam issued an open letter to the commission, calling for action rather than more study of the proposed measures.
“The assertion that more study is needed—twelve years and over 70 mass shootings after Virginia Tech—is inaccurate and inexcusable,” Northam wrote.
“I think the governor is purely engaging in politics. After the Virginia Tech tragedy, Governor Kaine very smartly, very wisely convened a blue ribbon panel, very methodical. That has not been the case with Governor Northam,” Republican House Majority Leader and commission member Todd Gilbert (R- Shenandoah Valley) said.
The commission heard more than a half dozen presentations on gun violence from representatives of the Virginia State Police, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosives.
Some commission members say they were most struck by reports of high incidences of gun deaths by suicide and shooting deaths in urban areas.
“Places that have been historically under served, involving underprivileged communities, communities of color, places where we can make a difference,” Gilbert said.
“We have to start acting, and realizing people are dying. Whatever we can do in common sense measures to address - let’s do it,” Herring said.
A researcher with the U.S. Secret Service underscored the need for citizens to report warning signs before mass shootings, and for communities to provide resources to handle them.
The Crime Commission will hear testimony Tuesday from the public, activists and the lawmakers proposing the bills being considered.
The meeting will be streamed live on the Virginia State Crime Commission website.
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