Northam to call Virginia General Assembly into Special Session to address gun violence
“No one should go to work, to school, or to church wondering if they will come home,” said Northam. “But that is what our society has come to, because we fail to act on gun violence… I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.”
Northam will announce the date of the special session in the coming days.
The move comes on the heels of a mass shooting in Virginia Beach on Friday that killed 13, including the shooter, DeWayne Craddock, 40, an employee of the City of Virginia Beach public-works department for 15 years.
His 12 victims included 11 co-workers in municipal government in Virginia Beach. Craddock had submitted his two weeks’ notice earlier in the day on Friday, but the two-sentence email did not give any indication of problems that he might have had with co-workers or supervisors that might have triggered what was to happen later in the day.
Craddock used two .45-caliber pistols, extended ammunition magazines and a gun suppressor in the rampage. Both guns and the suppressor, according to investigators, had been purchased legally by Craddock.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was Virginia governor in 2007 when a gunman killed 32 people on the campus at Virginia Tech, applauded the move by Northam to call legislators to Richmond to address gun violence.
“It’s painfully clear from the horrific shooting in Virginia Beach and the daily scourge of gun violence in communities across the Commonwealth that Virginia must pass commonsense gun safety reforms,” Kaine said in a statement. “When I was governor following the tragedy at Virginia Tech, we made some progress to fix a flaw in the background record check system that allowed the shooter to purchase a weapon, but when we tried to do more to strengthen background checks, Republicans blocked our efforts. There’s a lot of unfinished business to make our communities safer. We need more than thoughts and prayers; we need action.”
Speaking at a press conference with Northam on Tuesday, Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) said the Virginia Beach tragedy is “yet another avoidable act of gun violence in our nation.”
“Yet, our Republican colleagues tell us now is not the time to discuss taking action,” Locke said. “The passage of time will not fix the problem. It is the passage of legislation that we need. Our communities, communities like Virginia Beach, must have confidence that their elected representatives will be responsible enough to enact reasonable and sensible gun violence prevention legislation that makes their interests, their lives and the lives of their families, a priority over that of the gun lobby.”
In her remarks, House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) asked Republicans to work with Democrats to pass common-sense legislation.
“We as legislators are in office to make lives better for Virginians. That includes passing bills which can save lives. … Doing nothing about guns is not an option,” Filler-Corn said.
House Democrats have been ahead of the curve on the issue, holding a series of town halls across the Commonwealth last year to discuss gun violence, after Republican leaders had made it clear that the Select Committee on School Safety would not address guns.
House Dems formed the Safe Virginia Initiative and introduced a package of legislation on gun safety that Virginians requested in the town halls. Every bill failed this year without a floor vote.
“We have experienced unmitigated pain from senseless violence in Virginia before and now it has happened again. We can’t afford to stand idly by any longer,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), referring to the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech. “I want Virginians to hear me clearly: As elected officials, we can both grieve and work together to curb gun violence at the same time.”
In a statement, Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) also referenced the 2007 shooting, noting that “in the years since 2007, I’ve watched as our Commonwealth has done little to nothing to address the systemic problem guns have in our society.”
“In light of Gov. Northam’s call for a special session, I have alerted legislative services that the Senate Democratic Caucus will be re-filing legislation that addresses universal background checks, red flag laws, firearm magazine size, and banning bumpstocks, to name a few. This cannot be the new normal. We can do better. And it is past time to act,” Saslaw said.
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