State and National Government
Virginia lawmakers are back in Richmond today for the start of a special session on gun laws. Democrats say the state must enact gun control measures to reduce firearm-related deaths. Republicans say Governor Northam is trying to exploit the Virginia Beach tragedy for political gain. WFIR’s Evan Jones has a preview:
Virginia’s former Attorney General has responded to one of the biggest hang-ups for those against adding a citizenship question to the census. Ken Cuccinelli took over a position that had been labeled Immigration Czar recently, but made his first round of interviews in that position over the weekend WFIR’s Ian Price has more:
This week’s special General Assembly session on gun laws will cover proposals that state lawmakers generally consider every year — but never at a time when full public attention is paid to this one issue. Most proposals to tighten state gun laws died in committee this year, but there are calls this time for all such proposals to get full House and Senate votes. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia lawmakers are set to assemble Tuesday for what will likely be a contentious legislative session on gun laws.
Gov. Ralph Northam called the special session last month shortly after a Virginia Beach city employee opened fire on his coworkers at a municipal building on May 31.
Northam, a Democrat faced with a gun-friendly, Republican-controlled General Assembly in the middle of a legislative election year, is urging action on a several gun-control measures. He said lawmakers owe the victims of gun violence “votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.”
Police said Virginia Beach employee DeWayne Craddock used two semi-automatic handguns, a silencer and extended ammunition magazines to murder 12 people at a municipal building. Craddock was then killed in a gunbattle with police.
Republicans have criticized the governor — who has been politically weakened by a racist yearbook photo scandal from earlier this year— as an opportunist trying to exploit a tragedy for political gain.
Here’s a look at some of the fault lines heading into Tuesday’s special session:
WHAT DEMOCRATS WANT:
Northam is proposing several gun-control bills, include a ban on silencers and high-capacity magazines.
The governor said he also wants mandatory, universal background checks before gun purchases; a limit of one handgun purchase per month; and a “red flag” law that would allow authorities to seize weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Beyond the actual legislation, Democrats are looking to pin down lawmakers with recorded votes. Gun-control bills usually fail in GOP-controlled committees, with only a few legislators voting. Northam has pressured Republicans to at least allow a full floor vote on the measures.
WHAT REPUBLICANS WANT:
Republicans have shown no appetite for taking up Northam’s suggested bills, but instead said they want focus on criminal penalties directly or indirectly related to gun crimes. That includes enacting new mandatory minimum penalties for certain repeat domestic abusers, which Republicans said would reduce the number of gun-related homicides.
Northam said in May he would no longer sign any legislation that imposes new mandatory minimum penalties, a pledge he said was part of his efforts to make Virginia more equitable for communities of color.
Another GOP proposal would make it easier for state law enforcement officials to reduce prison time for informants who provide information about gun smuggling and other related crimes.
The special session will play out as election season heats up. All 140 legislative seats are up for grabs, and Virginia is the only state whose legislature has a reasonable chance of flipping partisan control this year. Republicans currently have narrow majorities in both the House and Senate.
Advocacy groups on both sides of the issue have spent heavily and mobilized their members in past state elections, and they are likely to do so this year. In 2015, a gun-control group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent more than $2.4 million helping Virginia Democrats.
Guns may not be the only topic of the special session. Republicans are also pushing for a bipartisan hearing on into sexual assault allegations two women have made against Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. Democratic leaders have dismissed the idea as a political stunt, but the caucus is divided on how to treat Fairfax.
Two women earlier this year publicly accused Fairfax of sexual assault and said they want to testify before the legislature, but only if both political parties participate. Fairfax has denied any wrongdoing and said the allegations should only be investigated by law enforcement officials.
Earlier this week a federal judge blocked a Trump Administration policy that would keep thousands of migrants locked up while they pursue asylum cases. Live in-studio yesterday WFIR’s Gene Marrano asked 9th District Congressman Morgan Griffith, “what now?”:
As state lawmakers prepare for next week’s special session on Virginia gun laws, recent polls from Christopher Newport University suggest some Republican legislators may find themselves in a tight spot. The polls show widespread support for universal background checks, and pollsters say GOP lawmakers in swing districts may have a more difficult time avoiding the issue than during regular sessions. WFIR’s Evan Jones has more:
Click here for the Wason Center’s news release on its two most recent gun law polls.
NEWS RELEASE: Governor Ralph Northam today announced his legislative agenda for the July 9 special session of the General Assembly. The special session is intended to address the gun violence emergency in Virginia.
“We continue to lose too many lives to senseless and preventable acts of gun violence, but we have the power to make meaningful change,” said Governor Northam. “Now is the time to act-Virginians deserve votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers. I urge the members of the General Assembly to engage in a thorough, meaningful discussion about these proposed bills and to allow every member to cast their votes on the floor.”
In 2017, there were 1,028 lives lost due to gun violence in Virginia, and this number rose in 2018. Since taking office, Governor Northam has consistently advanced and supported legislation that will prevent gun violence in the Commonwealth. Today, he announced a comprehensive package of eight bills that will save lives and improve public safety in our communities. The proposed package includes:
- Legislation requiring background checks on all firearms sales and transactions. The bill mandates that any person selling, renting, trading, or transferring a firearm must first obtain the results of a background check before completing the transaction.
- Legislation banning dangerous weapons. This will include bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers.
- Legislation to reinstate Virginia’s successful law allowing only one handgun purchase within a 30-day period.
- Legislation requiring that lost and stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 24 hours.
- Legislation creating an Extreme Risk Protective Order, allowing law enforcement and the courts to temporarily separate a person from firearms if the person exhibits dangerous behavior that presents an immediate threat to self or others.
- Legislation prohibiting all individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms. The bill expands Virginia law which currently prohibits individuals subject to final protective orders of family abuse from possessing firearms.
- Legislation enhancing the punishment for allowing access to loaded, unsecured firearm by a child from a Class 3 Misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony. The bill also raises the age of the child from 14 to 18.
- Legislation enabling localities to enact any firearms ordinances that are stricter than state law. This includes regulating firearms in municipal buildings, libraries and at permitted events.
You can hear this morning’s complete live in-studio conversation with 9th District Morgan Griffith on immigration, climate change and “getting out of the swamp” when he can, by clicking on the link below. He also followed up on a story we ran earlier about a Floyd County girl getting ready to lobby Congress to continue funding juvenile diabetes research. Griffith heard that story; later in studio he told us the Energy and Commerce committee and a health sub-committee he is a member of will get it done:
A 10-year-old Floyd County girl is preparing to join more than 160 other children from across the country next week to lobby Congress for continued diabetes research. Jamie Deremer will be part of this year’s Juvenile Diabetes Children’s Congress in Washington. The boys and girls also want to educate members of Congress how Type one diabetes affects their lives. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:
UPDATE: 9th District Congressman Morgan Griffith heard that story as it aired Wednesday, and later live in studio, he told us the Energy and Commerce committee and a health sub-committee he is a member of will get it done:
Governor Ralph Northam chose the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority for his local stop on a statewide tour today, to promote the fact that as of July 1st for more than 600,000 Virginians their driver’s licenses will no longer be suspended for unpaid court costs. Northam said the former suspension policy disproportionately hurt those on the lower end of the income scale. 26,000 Virginians impacted by the new policy applied to have their driver’s licenses restored yesterday.