Tensions High as Activists, Politicians Rally for VA Gov’s Special Legislative Session on Gun Control
Virginia kicks off a special legislative session on gun control Tuesday with activists on both sides of the issue at a fever pitch.
The pro-gun National Rifle Association as well as the anti-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, Brady United Against Gun Violence and March for Our Lives have announced plans to bring supporters to the capital of Richmond to lobby lawmakers, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
The session was called by Gov. Ralph Northam, who this spring suffered a major political embarrassment after it was revealed that at least one photo that appeared to be of him wearing blackface was published in his medical school yearbook. Northam is calling for universal background checks and a limit of one gun purchase per month.
Kirk Cox, the Republican speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates, referenced that political backdrop.
“The governor’s call to special session is hasty and suspect when considered against the backdrop of the last few months,” Cox said in a statement. He said lawmakers will show up but will not be Northam’s puppets.
“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,” he said.
The stakes run higher than gun control, some legislators have said as part of the impassioned run-up to the session.
“They want our state,” Republican Delegate Margaret B. Ransone said at an NRA-backed meeting in Fredericksburg, Virginia, according to what The Washington Post said was an audio recording of the session.
“They want every single member gone in the House and Senate that is Republican. They intentionally want to turn it blue. Gun control, abortion rights, social justice — they’ve named their three; that’s what they want,” Ransone said.
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Republican state Sen. Bryce E. Reeves told those in attendance that the session “is nothing more than politics. This governor’s on an apology tour. He’s on an apology tour. And this is part of his redemption.”
But the other side is not giving up without a fight.
VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said his members will descend en masse upon the capital.
“Our goal is to make Virginia a safer place,” he said. “We have some gun bills that we’re going to be pushing that would have most likely prevented what happened in Virginia Beach and Virginia Tech. That is allowing people with concealed handgun permits to carry at work, even if they work for the government.”
Others see the issue differently. “This is a mental health issue, and that’s where we need to focus it,” William R. DeSteph Jr. told an audience at an NRA meeting, The Post reported.
DeSteph said legislators cannot prevent what they do not fully understand.
“I don’t know how to solve it. I don’t know what that catalyst is that flips that switch” and makes a shooter take victims, he said.
“But I will tell you right up front there’s no piece of legislation, there’s no piece of any law we could’ve done to stop what happened here,” he said.
He denigrated the session as “a distraction.”
However, Democratic Delegate Delores McQuinn said the laws have to change.
“How many have lost a sister or a brother?” McQuinn said, according to WTVR. “Why are we still fighting these battles when there are some things we can do to help create a paradigm shift?”
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