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* * Virginia Republicans show cowardice on gun control


I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

A month ago, following still another mass murder like our country endures seemingly every few weeks, this time in Virginia Beach, Virginia’s governor Ralph Northam compelled the General Assembly to convene in special session in Richmond to debate and potentially pass several measures he’d suggested to reduce the possibility of more gun deaths. This is not a minor problem: last year, over 1000 Virginians died from bullet wounds.

Many people consider his proposals entirely modest. They included:

* Universal background checks, closing a loophole allowing private citizens to sell guns without getting background checks.

* Bans on assault weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines, silencers and devices like “bump stocks” that increase a gun’s firing rate.

* Reinstating a law repealed in 2012 that limited handgun purchases to one per month. (Again, note that we once had this law, but for gun rights advocates, being able to assemble an arsenal of 120 guns in ten years is not enough.)

* Requiring anyone whose firearm is lost or stolen to report it to police.

* Creating an “extreme risk protective order” allowing courts to seize guns from people who a judge deems a threat to themselves or others.

* Prohibiting anyone subject to a court’s final protective order from possessing a gun.

* Allowing cities and counties the ability to pass gun laws stricter than state law, such as banning firearms from public events or buildings.

Most of these proposals enjoy widespread support. For example, in 2018, 84% of Virginia voters said they favor requiring background checks for all gun sales. (Source: Christopher Newport University poll.)

To their credit, Republicans did present a proposal, when House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) proposed to increase criminal penalties like mandatory minimum sentences for gun-related crimes.

So the General Assembly, dominated by Republicans, met in that special session. For a mere 90 minutes. There was no debate on any proposals, even Cox’. No action. No laws. Then in grim irony to the Governor’s request to do more than send thoughts and prayers, they passed memorial resolutions for each of the Virginia Beach victims. And then they fled Richmond, scurrying home, presumably hoping nobody noticed.

Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) called it “The most totally irresponsible act I’ve seen by a political party in four decades I’ve been here.”


Many gun control advocates, including me, were dumbfounded and dismayed by this blatant abdication of duty. Do we not pay these people to make laws to protect us? I didn’t expect them to pass all these proposals, but neither did I expect them to do nothing.

When mature problem solving was called for, Delegate Speaker Kirk Cox and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, Jr. muttered flaccid excuses as they sat on their hands claiming that the Virginia Beach Crime Commission investigation, “needed to carefully review any findings that are available” before any decisions could be made. It is insulting to hear Cox stating that everyone, “shares the goal of reducing gun violence,” just before calling Governor's special session “a stunt.” Remember, Republican lawmakers failed to act 12 years ago when the commission Governor Kaine appointed to study the shooting at Virginia Tech.


In hindsight, though, everything comes into clarity when we wrap our heads around the idea that party control is everything and public safety is nothing to these Republicans. When we try to think in any other way, that their motives surely must have been purer, they confirm our darker thoughts themselves.

You see, one of those Republican legislators, Senator Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian), literally admitted in a taped interview – and I admire her candor – that these Republicans had decided before their arrival that they had no intention of considering the governor’s requests at all, ensuring that he’d never achieve anything resembling a victory. She said, “There was some concern that we did not have the votes in the House to be able to defeat these measures. There were some weak-kneed Republicans on the House side that could have very well voted for some of these bills, and we couldn’t take that chance in an election year. So that’s the play that was made; it was one that we agreed on in advance…”

Read that again: they agreed before they arrived that nothing would be done.

For Republicans, it’s not about public safety at all, but more of political gamesmanship. They have decided they’d rather face voters in November having done nothing but show contempt for public safety, than having considered, much less passed, reasonable safety measures. Seemingly nowhere in their calculus was the issue of tackling what is a state and national emergency. Succinctly, they don’t give a damn how many people are killed or wounded.

Remember, we lose on average 3 Virginians every day.

So now it falls to voters. Local Delegates voting to adjourn include Nick Rush (R-Christiansburg) in District 7 and Joe McNamara (R-Salem) in District 8. Whether they can be seriously challenged in heavily Republican districts in November is yet to be seen. But it seems clear that the only way we’ll get the legislation we so desperately need is to vote these deadbeats out, in favor of people willing to do their jobs.

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