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Session on guns ends in acrimony / July 11, 2019
A special session of the General Assembly to take up gun legislation dissolved in acrimony on Tuesday, setting up a major political fight in the fall legislative elections and leaving Virginia’s gun ownership laws untouched.

Halifax Del. James Edmunds, who is running in November for a sixth term representing the 60th District, hailed the outcome of the aborted session, which was called by Democratic Gov. Ralph Norment in the wake of the May 31 mass shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building that left 12 people dead.

Lawmakers met for 90 minutes Tuesday without taking up a single bill when the Republican leadership in the House and Senate abruptly adjourned the session until after the November election.

Although Edmunds said he was happy that gun legislation failed, he added that it is a “very real possibility” that the November elections could strip Virginia Republicans of their majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly and give Democrats the votes in Richmond to enact curbs on gun purchasing and ownership.

“I’m just not going to let it happen on my watch,” he said.

Republicans control the House by a 51-48 majority and the Senate by a 20-19 margin, with one vacancy in each chamber. Recent polling by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University shows 84 percent of Virginians support background checks for all gun sales, and 65 percent back an assault weapons ban.

Democrats and gun control activists were livid over the GOP’s refusal to take up action on gun safety legislation Tuesday. Their fury was piqued when Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) initially introduced a bill to ban all firearms from municipal buildings around the state, only to withdraw the measure after gun rights organizations and fellow GOP lawmakers blasted the idea.

Edmunds said he, too, opposes any legislation to ban guns in government buildings, including inside courtrooms. In Halifax County, persons entering courtrooms and Board of Supervisors meetings are required to pass through metal detectors that pick up anyone who may be carrying guns.

“If they have a concealed carry [permit] and they have permission to carry, then I think it’s okay,” Edmunds said.

“It’s already a capital offense to kill someone …. Everyone knows it, and people still seem to do it. I can’t think of any new laws that we can create that would stop it.”

Democrats had sought debate on several bills, including a ban on silencers and high-capacity magazines; universal background checks for gun purchases; reinstating Virginia’s one handgun-a-month purchase limit; an assault weapons ban; and a “red flag” law that would authorize law enforcement to take away firearms from persons deemed to be a risk to themselves or to others.

Among the states that have enacted “red flag” laws is Florida, where the Republican-dominated statehouse approved the bill in the aftermath of the Parkland school massacre.

Edmunds said he doesn’t believe any of the proposals that were offered at Tuesday’s special session would lessen gun violence. “Personally, it goes back to I don’t believe that disarming law-abiding citizens is the right thing to do,” said Edmunds. “It’s just philosophical for me … If you’re law abiding and not causing any trouble, I personally think you should be able to carry a gun wherever you want to.”

In the Virginia Beach shooting, local government employee DeWayne Craddock used two semi-automatic handguns, a silencer and extended ammunition magazines to gun down 12 people before he died in a gun battle with police. Craddock had no prior criminal record, other than a few traffic violations.

Edmunds said the only gun legislation he could see himself supporting would be measures to “put more teeth into current laws we [already] have. I’m fine with that.

“I believe when we pass legislation to try to prohibit guns, it contributes to the mindset that guns are bad, period. It becomes socially unacceptable to [have guns] and so people don’t do it.”

At the Capitol, Democrats were withering in their anger at the snap adjournment, and vowed to run on a gun safety platform in the November elections when all 140 seats in the General Assembly will be on the ballot.

“Virginia Republicans’ actions today — or more accurately, their blatant inaction — are reprehensible but not surprising. After all, they’ve blocked meaningful gun violence prevention legislation for years, despite thousands of firearm fatalities,” said House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) and Caucus Chair Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) in a statement issued Tuesday after the adjournment. “Elected Republicans always say it is ‘too soon’ to talk about gun violence; they always fail to acknowledge that for the victims and their loved ones, it is far too late.”

The Northern Virginia Democrats accused Republican lawmakers of paying “lip service to victims – or at least the ones who make the news – while demonstrating an unwavering loyalty to the gun lobby. In the twelve years since Virginia Tech, gun laws in Virginia have only gotten looser.”

The adjourned session is scheduled to reopen on Nov. 18 — sufficient time, according to Republican leaders, for the bipartisan Virginia State Crime Commission to study and recommend gun bills for consideration.

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Can ya'll do something productive? Impeach/run out of office that idiot governor we have.

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