GOP-led Virginia Legislature abruptly adjourns gun session | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

GOP-led Virginia Legislature abruptly adjourns gun session

Associated Press
1392578_web1_1392578-c1aa4fe445e142c58b7837b9c4a8e3f5
Del. Chris Hurst, D- Montgomery, gestures during an impassioned floor speech during the Special session on gun issues at the State Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Governor Northam called a special session of the General Assembly to consider gun legislation in light of the Virginia Beach Shootings both chambers voted to adjourn until Nov. 18. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
1392578_web1_1392578-0656e66ee9e6431fb8bddba485f708ec
Gov. Ralph Northam walks away from the lectern after speaking at a rally against gun violence held on the Virginia State Capitol grounds, in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Gov. Northam has called the legislature into special session to deal with the issues after 13 people were gunned down in a Virginia Beach mass shooting in May. (Joe Mahoney/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
1392578_web1_1392578-1cb222bace544f5cb668173fe1129686
House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, speaks during a press conference after a special session on gun issues at the state Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Gov. Northam called a special session of the General Assembly to consider gun legislation in light of the Virginia Beach Shootings both chambers voted to adjourn until Nov. 18. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
1392578_web1_1392578-031a66d35d4948bd838134f97310d71b
Members of the Virginia House of Delegates, stand to agree to honor the victims of the Virginia Beach shootings during the Special session on gun issues at the State Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Governor Northam called a special session of the General Assembly to consider gun legislation in light of the Virginia Beach Shootings both chambers voted to adjourn until Nov. 18. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
1392578_web1_1392578-310939e542344905a6bf12c587bef1f2
Protesters line the septs of the Capitol as the special session on gun issues was about to begin at the State Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Governor Northam called a special session of the General Assembly to consider gun legislation in light of the Virginia Beach Shootings both chambers voted to adjourn until Nov. 18. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
1392578_web1_1392578-88b7385d56dc4be5a313826f7365216f
Gypsy Gonzalez, right, and Adam Root, of Richmond, hold weapons as well as a photo that was in Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook outside an office building at the State Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Governor Northam called a special session of the General Assembly to consider gun legislation in light of the Virginia Beach Shootings. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. — Less than two hours after beginning a special session called in response to a mass shooting, Virginia lawmakers abruptly adjourned Tuesday and postponed any movement on gun laws until after the November election.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam summoned the Republican-led Legislature to the Capitol to address gun violence in the wake of the May 31 attack that killed a dozen people in Virginia Beach. He put forward a package of eight gun-control measures and called for “votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers” in reaction to the massacre.

But not a single vote was cast on the legislation. Republican leaders said the session was premature and politically motivated. They assigned the state’s bipartisan crime commission to study the Virginia Beach shooting and the governor’s proposed legislation.

In reply, angry Democrats said Republicans were beholden to the gun lobby and afraid of passing commonsense laws they know will save lives.

It was a familiar outcome in a stalled debate that plays out yearly in Virginia on an issue that has divided the nation for more than two decades.

“I wasn’t expecting much, but I wasn’t expecting this,” said Andy Parker, whose journalist daughter, Alison Parker, was shot to death on live TV in Virginia in 2015, along with a cameraman.

“This is just a complete, disgraceful act of cowardice by the Republicans … And I think it’s going to backfire on them,” he said.

Republicans said it was Northam, still dealing with the fallout of a blackface scandal that almost drove him from office, who acted improperly. Instead of pushing for votes on legislation that would not have prevented the Virginia Beach shooting, they said, the governor should have called for a blue-ribbon commission to study gun and mental health issues. That is similar to what U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine did as governor following a 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech that left 32 people dead and more than a dozen wounded.

“Quite frankly, we need to take a little bit deeper look at these issues and actually do something rather than stage manage a vote in which we’re just trying to embarrass each other,” said state Sen. Mark Obenshain.

After the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, the state passed a law prohibiting people deemed seriously mentally ill from buying a gun. But a push at the time for universal background checks failed.

Virginia is generally considered a gun-friendly state and is home to the NRA headquarters. The GOP-led General Assembly has spiked numerous gun-control bills — including several Northam proposed for the special session — year after year.

Richard Keene, a 51-year-old gun owner from Chesterfield, said the session turned out to be “a lot of hype for nothing.”

“I’m a little disappointed in everyone, actually,” he said. “I don’t feel like the common, normal person, the normal American, is represented anymore. It’s frustrating.”

The special session got off to a chaotic start, with the Republican Senate majority leader averting a mutiny in the GOP caucus by publicly disavowing a gun-control bill he proposed only a day earlier.

On Monday, the leader, Tommy Norment, shocked fellow Republicans by filing surprise legislation to broadly ban guns in any government building statewide. That prompted an immediate backlash in the GOP caucus, which controls the chamber by a slim 20-19 advantage. His top vote-counter, Sen. Bill Stanley, resigned as majority whip in protest.

But the departure did not last long. Stanley said Norment apologized and asked Stanley to reconsider his resignation. The caucus quickly restored him to his position, and Norment announced that he would throw out his own bill.

Outside the Capitol, Northam led a group of gun-control supporters chanting “Enough is enough!” It has become a refrain against gun violence at rallies nationwide after repeated mass shootings.

After the adjournment, Northam issued a statement saying it was “shameful and disappointing” that Republicans “refuse to do their jobs and take immediate action to save lives.”

The Virginia Beach attack began when a civil engineer opened fire in a municipal building. The assailant was killed in a gunfight with police.

In calling for gun-control legislation, Northam also cited the fatal shooting of 9-year-old Markiya Dickson in a Richmond park during a May 26 cookout.

Gun-rights advocates also rallied outside the Capitol and filed through an office building to meet with lawmakers. Some made their way through the Capitol with handguns openly visible in holsters, which is permitted.

Jim Snyder, a 69-year-old gun owner from northern Virginia, said the Virginia Beach shooting had not moved the needle on gun issues for him one bit.

“A lot of people say, ‘Well, we’ve got to find common ground,’ which means, ‘We’ve got to find gun control that you’ll accept,’” said Snyder, who is vice president of the gun-rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League. But he said he was speaking only for himself.

Keene, who was standing outside the Capitol after most of the crowds had dissipated, said he was disappointed with the partisanship surrounding the issue.

“I believe there is some common ground for the common good that all of us could work toward,” he said.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.