Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Virginia governor plans special session on gun control

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will call the legislature into session this summer "to take up a package of gun-control legislation he said is urgently needed to prevent killings like Friday's mass shooting in Virginia Beach," reports Alan Suderman of The Associated Press.

Northam's legislation includes a ban on silencers and high capacity magazines like those used in the shooting at the Virginia Beach city hall, and would broaden "the ability of local governments to limit guns in city buildings," AP reports. It would also require background checks of all gun buyers, limit handgun purchases to one per month and "allow authorities to temporarily seize someone's guns if they are a shown to be threat to themselves or others."

Virginia has a strong, rural-based gun culture. However, "Polls have shown that Virginians increasingly favor tightening the state’s gun laws, which are among the most permissive in the nation, notes Gregory Schneider of The Washington Post. AP notes, "The governor . . . made the issue a top priority of his 2017 gubernatorial campaign, drawing from his experience as a pediatrician and Army doctor who has treated children and soldiers wounded by firearms."

"The topic is especially sensitive in an election year when all 140 seats in the legislature are on the November ballot," Schneider notes. "Republicans are nursing two-seat majorities in both the Senate and the House of Delegates, and Democrats are hoping to inspire bigger-than-usual turnout to change the balance of power."

AP notes, "Friday's shooting has been Northam's first major test since a scandal over a racist photo in his medical school yearbook nearly drove him from office four months ago. . . .Republicans have previously rejected Northam's gun control bills out of hand," but House Majority Leader Tommy Norment told Williamsburg's Virginia Gazette, "I think there ought to be a meaningful discussion legislatively and in the community about gun control."

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