Calling for more “votes and laws” over “thoughts and prayers,” Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said he would call the Virginia General Assembly back into session to pass new gun control legislation.
Meanwhile, Republicans said they would use the session to pass strong, new mandatory-minimum sentences for criminals who use guns in the course of the acts.
Northam made the announcement four days after a gunman opened fire in a Virginia Beach city government building, killing 12 and wounding four more.
Police are still investigating the shootings, and have yet to identify the gunman’s motive. The 40-year-old city employee was killed in a long running gun battle with police.
Northam said he would ask the legislature to enact his gun control agenda from earlier this year: a ban on bump stocks, “assault weapons,” large-capacity magazines, in addition to “red flag” laws that would allow police to temporarily seize firearms from those thought to be a danger to themselves or others.
Enacting the agenda, which was defeated during the regular session in the spring, would be worth the effort “if it saves one life,” he said.
Republicans were quick to point out that even as law enforcement officials were still investigating the murders, police had already said that there was no new gun law that could have prevented the massacre.
Not only did the perpetrator obtain his guns legally, he did so over a period of two years — which would have been allowed even under the “one gun per month” law Northam seeks to reinstate.
The killer had no previous criminal record, had served honorably in the National Guard, and had legal access to the building where the shooting took place.
City officials had also designated the building as a “gun free zone,” according to published reports. State code bars anyone from carrying a weapon with more than 20 rounds in Virginia Beach, as well as the possession of silencers.
“The governor’s call to Special Session is more likely to inflame political tensions than produce substantive public policy changes that will keep people safe,” said House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights.
Past tragedies have been met with deliberate study and bipartisan legislation, he added.
Cox also hinted that Governor Northam would again be presented with legislation he vetoed last session, including mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes and domestic violence offenders.
A date for the session has yet to be released.