On Tuesday, House and Senate Democrats joined Governor Ralph Northam as he announced he will call the General Assembly into a special session to address priority gun safety legislation. Democrats in the General Assembly have consistently introduced gun violence prevention bills, only to have them struck down in committees and subcommittees by Republican majorities in each chamber.
At the Governor’s press conference, 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. 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, saying, “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.”
Leader Filler-Corn also described how House Democrats took the lead on holding a series of town halls across the Commonwealth last year to discuss gun violence, after the House Speaker made it clear that the Select Committee on School Safety would not address guns. House Democrats instead 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 in which 32 people lost their lives. “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) said, “Twelve years ago, Virginia experienced (at the time) the deadliest shooting in American history, in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech. 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 Governor 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.”
In the 2019 general session, Senate Democrats introduced 14 gun safety bills. Democrats introduced 19 bills in the House of Delegates. Not a single bill reached the floor of either chamber.