Governor Calls on Legislature for Gun Reforms After Virginia Beach Shooting

Photo Credit: SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
June 5, 2019

By Rebecca Heilweil

Kris Brown, the president of the gun reform advocacy group Brady, says that an upcoming special legislative session focusing on gun control in Virginia ー called by the state’s governor following the fatal shooting of 12 people at a public works building in Virginia Beach last Friday ー is necessary and vital.

“I think the governor is very rightly saying votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers,” she said.

Among the gun reform policies sought by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam are a ban on high-capacity magazines and a ban on silencers, both of which were used by the Virginia Beach shooter.

The governor is also calling for the expansion of background checks. “Right now, in the state of Virginia, if you’re a private gun seller, you don’t technically have to engage in a background check,” explained Brown.

But it’s not clear whether pro-gun legislators who have previously avoided voting on, or have voted down, previous gun reform measures can be swayed.

“We have an opportunity in Virginia this November to elect a gun violence prevention majority, so we can deliver these huge and important policy changes that are required,” said Brown.

Exit polling during the 2017 governor’s race that ultimately elected Northam revealed that voters saw guns as their second-most important issue.

Brady, (formerly called the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence) , has previously given Northam an A+ rating on gun reform.

In the United States, more than 6,000 people have died, and more than 11,000 have been injured, due to gun-related violence in this year alone, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. That number excludes gun-related deaths attributed to suicide.

On Tuesday, Gov. Northam announced that he would call the Virginia state legislature to convene in a special session focused on gun violence, which the state constitution empowers him to do.

Northam is also calling to create a mechanism for law enforcement to limit those who are dangers to themselves from owning guns and to require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours.

“None of these ideas are radical. None of them violate the Second Amendment. None of them would impair any of my fellow Virginia hunters or sportsmen,” he said in a statement. “None of them would limit anyone from owning a gun who wasn’t a felon or a domestic abuser or declared by a judge to be a danger."

Northam has called to reinstate the state’s “One Handgun a Month” rule, an effort that was unsuccessfully pursued by Virginia’s previous governor, Terry McAuliffe. The law would prohibit an individual from purchasing more than one firearm during a 30-day period .

The governor said that more than 1,000 people died due to gun violence in Virginia in 2017.

“I’d like to tell you that somehow you get used to it, and that it gets easier. It doesn’t. It’s absolutely horrific,” said Brown. She said she spent the weekend “finding myself, probably like so many Americans, just sobbing about what an endless cycle we seem to be on, and this tragic loss of life.”

“And what comes to mind for me, as a mother, and also as an American, is the knowledge ー and the certainty ー that it just does not have to be this way,” she added.