Tuesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam called a special session on guns in response to the May 31 Virginia Beach shooting; however, Republicans adjourned the legislature until November after 90 minutes in session.
The Governor hoped to pass bills on gun control to prevent further mass shootings in a state with some of the weakest gun laws in the country. When guns are bought and sold between Virginians, there is no permit, background check, or registration requirement. The session was supported by gun control activists such as the major group “Giffords” that praised the Governor for declaring that “we must never accept gun violence as normal.”
Throughout Virginia’s 2019 legislative session, Democratic legislators in support of common-sense gun reform repeatedly attempted to pass laws addressing gun violence, introducing over a dozen bills to the legislature. Speaker of the House Republican Kirk Cox sent each of these bills to a subcommittee dominated by pro-gun delegates that voted them down in committee votes that were split down party lines.
Polling has clearly demonstrated that Virginians overwhelmingly support some form of gun control legislation. 84% of people polled supported mandatory background checks for all sales of guns, including over 75% of Republicans. In addition, 65% of voters supported a ban on assault-style weapons. These results are a clear indication of the state’s desire to implement stricter gun laws to some degree.
Gun legislation is only one of many divisive issues that consume Virginian politics, especially now under a Democratic governor and a 51-49 Republican majority in the House of Delegates. There has also been a clear partisan divide on women’s rights. Since 1972, when the Equal Rights Amendment was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification, the Virginia House has never been able to vote on its ratification. The Virginia Senate has passed the ERA six times but the House has repeatedly shut it down including this January when it lost by one vote in a starkly partisan result.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 1/17/19; U.S. Concealed Carry 5/24/19; Washington Post 6/4/19; The Virginian Pilot 7/3/19; Washington Post 7/8/19;