Virginia Republicans promised a “thoughtful and deliberative study” of gun legislation when they abruptly adjourned a special legislative session called by Gov. Ralph Northam following a May mass shooting in Virginia Beach.
GOP leaders released the resulting report Tuesday – a three-page document that makes no recommendations.
Virginia State Crime Commission staff members tasked with the study instead wrote that it was up to elected politicians to decide what policies to enact, citing “inconclusive evidence to develop recommendations.”
“The absence of recommendations should not be interpreted as meaning that no changes to Virginia’s laws are necessary, but rather that any changes are policy decisions which can only be made by the General Assembly,” they wrote. The staffers noted they could use their gun violence research to offer “technical assistance” to state lawmakers going forward.
Democrats had blasted Republicans for adjourning Northam’s special session after only 90 minutes, calling the decision to send legislation to the crime commission and delay action until after the November elections a stall tactic to avoid addressing the issue on the campaign trail. Northam asked lawmakers to return Richmond days after a gunman killed 12 people at a municipal building in Virginia Beach. The governor urged lawmakers to pass a package of legislation that included red-flag laws, universal background checks and a limit on magazine capacity.
Republicans, who lost majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly last week, announced Friday they were cancelling a commission meeting scheduled for Tuesday. They had planned to go over the report and discuss recommendations to forward to the full General Assembly, which was scheduled to reconvene next week to act on those recommendations. The party has also cancelled that meeting, noting that Northam said he expected to pass his full package of gun legislation now that Democrats control both chambers.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.