Virginia Gov. Northam Calls For Special Session To Address Gun Violence

Originally published on August 13, 2019 1:38 pm

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday called a special legislative session on gun violence, citing last week’s deadly mass shooting that claimed 12 lives.

“It is wrong, it is outrageous, it is unforgivable to turn our municipal centers, our schools, our churches, and synagogues and mosques into battlefields,” Northam said. “It is wrong that we now view these mass shootings as the normal.”

The Friday shooting spree at a Virginia Beach government center became one of the most deadly workplace killings in the last decade when a heavily armed former employee of the city stormed the building and began firing “indiscriminately,” according to authorities.

Northam said he was calling for action to reconsider previous gun legislation proposals, including universal background checks, bans on high-capacity magazines and a reinstatement of an earlier purchasing limit of one handgun a month.

“I am calling on the elected officials of this Commonwealth to become second responders,” said Northam. “Your duty is clear: Rush to the scene and put a stop to this violence.”

‘Hasty and Suspect’

Northam faces an uphill battle in getting gun reform legislation passed. Top brass in the Republican-controlled state legislature have signaled that they will not take up any additional gun control measures and will instead use the special session to push for harsher penalties on for crimes committed with guns.

“The Governor’s call to Special Session is hasty and suspect when considered against the backdrop of the last few months,” House Speaker Kirk Cox said in a statement.

“While the Governor can call a special session, he cannot specify what the General Assembly chooses to consider or how we do our work. We intend to use that time to take productive steps to address gun violence by holding criminals accountable with tougher sentences — including mandatory minimums,” Cox, the leading House Republican, said.

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment in a statement said that while it is Northam’s “constitutional prerogative” to call a special session, the move represented “political posturing” as opposed to solutions.

A spokeswoman for Northam said that the session will likely convene in late June.

Both parties have significant interest in appealing to their bases on hotly contested issues like gun control. All 40 seats in the Virginia Senate and 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for election in the November 2019 race.

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