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Virginia lawmakers adjourn special session without gun vote in wake of latest mass shooting

Virginia governor urges action on gun reform
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam urges action on "common sense" gun reform 11:26

The Virginia General Assembly voted to adjourn until November, as Republicans rejected Democrats' request to vote on a series of gun control measures. Virginia lawmakers were set to debate and vote on new gun laws after a gunman killed a dozen people in a local government building.

Gov. Ralph Northam ordered lawmakers to return to the Capitol and called for passage of a wide range of gun-control measures. The Democrat said people need "votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers" after a Virginia Beach city employee shot and killed 12 people on May 31.

But the special session on gun violence got off to a chaotic start Tuesday before ending the same day. Advocates for and against stricter gun laws held rallies at the Virginia Capitol as lawmakers gathered, with Gov. Northam leading gun-control proponents in chants of "enough is enough."

Northam had proposed legislation that would include expanding background checks in the state and a review of potential restrictions on gun "silencers," or suppressors, like the one used in the latest shooting.

What else Northam proposed:

  • Universal background checks
  • Ban on assault weapons to include suppressors and bump stocks 
  • Extreme risk protective orders
  • Reinstating the "one-gun-a-month" law
  • Child access prevention programs
  • Require individuals to report lost or stolen firearms
  • Expanding local authority to regulate firearms, including in government buildings 

Northam slammed his Republican colleagues for bringing an abrupt end to the legislative session. 

"It is shameful and disappointing that Republicans in the General Assembly refuse to do their jobs, and take immediate action to save lives. I expected better of them. Virginians expect better of them," said Northam in a statement. 

GOP lawmakers criticized Northam as trying to exploit a tragedy for political gain. And in the leadup to Tuesday's session, Republican leaders who control the legislature signaled they wouldn't pass gun controls, focusing instead on increasing criminal penalties after gun crimes.

But Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment filed surprise legislation Monday to broadly ban guns in any government building. During the session, Virginia Senate GOP majority whip Bill Stanley resigned to protest Norment's bill. Norment then apologized to his caucus and moved to reinstate Stanley to his key leadership post. Stanley was the only one of his Republican colleagues to vote against himself.

Kris Brown, president of the gun control advocacy group Brady said in a statement, "Today, Tommy Norment and Kirk Cox revealed themselves as nothing short of cowards."

Brown added, "If these 'leaders' won't enact solutions that their own constituents are demanding, then we're going to fight tooth and nail for representatives who will."

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