Virginia’s Republican-controlled legislature ended a special legislative session on Tuesday called by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam to consider new gun-control measures in less than two hours.
Northam made the decision in the wake of a mass shooting in Virginia Beach on May 31 at the city’s municipal center that left 12 people dead.
House Speaker Kirk Cox characterized the governor’s move as premature, pointing out the shooting — which was carried out by a Virginia Beach city employee — was still being investigated, Fox News reported.
“The whole thing is just an election-year stunt,” Cox said.
Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment added that Northam chose “politics over policy” according to The Roanoke Times.
Republican leaders in both the House of Delegates and the Senate agreed beforehand that any bills offered would be referred to the Virginia State Crime Commission for study.
The measures would then be considered, subject to the commission’s findings, after the legislature reconvenes on Nov. 18.
All of Virginia’s 140 legislative seats are up for election this November.
“It is shameful and disappointing that Republicans in the General Assembly refuse to do their jobs, and take immediate action to save lives,” Northam said in a statement.
“I expected better of them. Virginians expect better of them.”
In a surprising move to his fellow Republicans, Norment filed legislation in the Senate banning guns from government buildings statewide.
Majority Whip Sen. Bill Stanley resigned in protest saying, “Sometimes you just got to stand for principle.”
Norment then reversed course, striking his own bill from consideration, and the Republican caucus voted for Stanley to stay on as majority whip.
The bills filed by Democrats call for universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, and requiring people to report lost or stolen firearms.
Under federal law, those purchasing firearms from an authorized dealer must undergo a background check to ensure they do not have a criminal record or mental health or other restrictions barring them from purchasing a gun.
However, background checks do not apply to private individuals selling, gifting or trading guns with one another.
Second Amendment advocates have noted the U.S. already tried an assault weapons ban during the mid-’90s, but there was no apparent correlation to it being in place and the prevalence of gun violence.
Daily Wire editor in chief Ben Shapiro tweeted a chart following the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017 showing that the murder rate has been trending down in the U.S. for decades — with or without the ban — despite gun ownership increasing significantly.
Here is a chart of American gun ownership and American murder rate. Please explain how more guns inevitably means more murder. pic.twitter.com/TVOJZe2BTi
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) October 3, 2017
Notably, the rate remained low and then decreased further after the assault weapons ban, which President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994, expired in 2004.
FBI statistics show the top murder weapon, far and away, is the handgun, followed thereafter by knives and blunt objects.
Shotguns are relatively uncommon murder weapons, according to FBI homicide statistics. Handguns were used 27 times more frequently in homicides in 2016. https://t.co/blMWfthzU0 pic.twitter.com/nIJWJYR6k9
— Nathan Bernier (@KUTnathan) May 18, 2018
Rifles (which would include AR-15s and other “assault weapons”) are near the bottom of the list.
Virginia Beach CBS affiliate WTKR reported the man responsible for the mass shooting in May was armed with two 45-caliber handguns.
Federal authorities determined the gunman legally purchased the weapons over the last three years.
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