Special session discussed

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, June 19, 2019

On Tuesday, July 9, a special session of the General Assembly was scheduled to consider legislation on weapon safety.

The session was called by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam following the mass shooting in Virginia Beach on May 31, in which 12 died.

The legislation being considered, according to a release from the Office of the Governor, include universal background checks; a ban on assault weapons, to include suppressors and bump stocks; an extreme risk protective order; reinstating the one-gun-a-month law; child access prevention; requiring people to report lost and stolen firearms and expanding local authority to regulate firearms, including in government buildings.
“No one should go to work, to school, or to church wondering if they will come home,” Northam said in a statement on June 4.

During the address, he expressed heartbreak for families affected by the shootings.
“But that is what our society has come to, because we fail to act on gun violence … I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.” Northam said.
Prior to the upcoming session, The Gazette reached out to area legislators to get their thoughts on the session and the legislation being considered.

Rep. Denver Riggleman is congressman for the 5th District, which encompasses Charlotte County.
Riggleman said in a statement his hope is that republican legislators advocate for weapon rights.
“This special session is an effort by Gov. Northam and the democrats to infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Riggleman said, “and I hope Republicans in the General Assembly will stand up for our gun rights during this special session.”

State Sen. Frank Ruff Jr. represents District 15, which includes all of Charlotte County, Mecklenburg County, Lunenburg County, Nottoway County and parts of Brunswick County, Campbell County, Dinwiddie County, Halifax County, Pittsylvania County, Prince George County and Danville City.

Ruff said many of the legislation being considered on July 9 were also considered during the General Assembly session in January of this year.

“It was done on the heels of the shooting in Virginia Beach, before, I think, everyone had been buried, and I think that was not a proper action to take,” Ruff said in a statement about the special session announcement. “We will consider everything that’s offered, but there are already laws in the books to deal with people who do bad things, but that does not stop people from doing bad things. I’m not sure what we are trying to accomplish there.”

Del. James Edmunds represents District 60, which includes Charlotte, Prince Edward, Halifax and part of Campbell County. In a statement, he said he doesn’t believe the measures will prevent gun violence situations from occurring in the future.

“It comes as no surprise that the Governor would call a special session in response to the most recent mass shooting in Virginia Beach,” Edmunds said in a statement. “Tragedies such as this always provide a platform to advance more gun control measures, especially when there is an upcoming election. I personally do not believe that any of the proposals that Governor Northam has put forward would have prevented this massacre from occurring! Quite frankly, murdering someone is already punishable by death in Virginia and that doesn’t stop heinous crimes such as this one. Why take away the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns?

“I have been very consistent in my position on the Second Amendment since first being elected. I have no problem increasing the penalty of those who break our current laws but I do not think that more laws are the answer,” Edmunds said.

Sen. Tim Kaine, in a statement, praised the session for seeking to take action on gun violence instances.

“I applaud Governor Northam, who has seen the carnage of gun violence as a pediatrician, for calling the General Assembly to gather in a special session to find solutions,” Kaine said. “It’s painfully clear from the horrific shooting in Virginia Beach and the daily scourge of gun violence in communities across the Commonwealth that Virginia must pass commonsense gun safety reforms. When I was governor following the tragedy at Virginia Tech, we made some progress to fix a flaw in the background record check system that allowed the shooter to purchase a weapon, but when we tried to do more to strengthen background checks, Republicans blocked our efforts. There’s a lot of unfinished business to make our communities safer. We need more than thoughts and prayers; we need action.”

Sen. Mark Warner said in a statement that legislators, regardless of political party, will find commonalities during the session.

“This is the right move,” Warner said. “I hope legislators will come to Richmond with a willingness to find common ground on ways to reduce gun violence. Keeping our Commonwealth safe can and should be a bipartisan effort.”