Backroom deals killing Virginia gun safety bills?

constitutionLess than two weeks into the General Assembly session, Republican lawmakers have resorted to backroom deals in order to kill a package of gun safety bills in an effort to avoid attracting attention from the media and public. This strategy comes on the heels of days of bad publicity regarding procedural snafus in the assembly.

The Virginia House of Delegates’ Militia, Police, and Public Safety Subcommittee #1 has called an emergency meeting today, immediately after the House adjourns in House room #2 in the Capitol, rather than in the General Assembly building where the committee regularly meets Thursday afternoons at 4 p.m. The subcommittee is going to bring up multiple gun safety bills including requiring voluntary background checks at Virginia gun shows – legislation that passed a senate committee on Monday. Last Thursday, the subcommittee killed a series of gun violence prevention bills, including a bill to prevent convicted domestic abusers from possessing firearms after hearing poignant testimony from those directly affected by armed domestic abusers, as well as supportive testimony from law enforcement and other stakeholders.

These votes garnered an avalanche of bad press from Virginia newspapers and editorial boards including The Washington Post, The Roanoke Times and The Virginian-Pilot.

“These lawmakers appear to be tired of the pesky public watching them defeating such common-sense measures, so they have moved their tactics behind doors, in secret meetings, and through procedural gimmicks,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

In response to this unprecedented move by Subcommittee #1, Lori Haas, Virginia state director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said, “The committee has had ample time, even canceling meetings on Jan. 15 and 22, to hear these bills at regularly scheduled hearings. To call an emergency meeting for no apparent reason is purposefully leaving the public out of the conversation. What committee members really want is to only hear from the gun lobby, not those who are more concerned with the safety of Virginia families.

“I urge Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31), Chairman of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee, to insist on transparency and call off consideration of these bills until the regularly scheduled meeting of Subcommittee #1. The survivors of gun violence and domestic violence should have an opportunity to be at these proceedings.”

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