Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s much-touted special session to address “gun violence” ended with a whimper yesterday when the state’s Republican legislators moved to adjourn after being in session less than two hours and not debating or voting on any of Gov. Northam’s gun-control legislation.
The GOP argued that the governor’s special session was nothing more than a politically-motivated strategy to distract from his blackface scandal earlier this year. They said that none of Gov. Northam’s proposals would have stopped the Virginia Beach massacre, and the best response would have been to assign a blue-ribbon committee to address gun control and mental health, according to the Associated Press.
“Quite frankly, we need to take a little bit deeper look at these issues and actually do something rather than stage manage a vote in which we’re just trying to embarrass each other,” state Sen. Mark Obenshain told the AP.
Republicans assigned the state’s bipartisan crime commission to study the Virginia Beach shooting and the governor’s proposed legislation.
Gov. Northam and his gun control allies decried the move as “shameful” and suggested that the GOP is beholden to the pro-gun lobby.
“It is shameful and disappointing that Republicans in the General Assembly refuse to do their jobs, and take immediate action to save lives. I expected better of them. Virginians expect better of them,” Gov. Northam said in a statement.
“Our lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves,” said Sibel Galindez, a Virginia Beach resident and a volunteer with the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Today was an opportunity for state legislators to do something about the shootings that are tearing our communities apart. Instead, they played partisan games and caved to NRA pressure. It’s time to vote out lawmakers who have shown us, time after time, that they don’t have the heart or the backbone to stand up for public safety by strengthening our gun laws.”
In the Senate, the motion to adjourn was proposed by Republican Sen. Steve Newman after less than two hours in session. The Senate hadn’t debated or voted on any legislation until that point, though they had passed resolutions honoring those killed in Virginia Beach.
When the move to adjourn was made, Democratic Sen. Chap Peterson tried to debate the motion, but Republican Sen. Thomas K. Norment, Jr., pointed out that the motion was not debatable and he refused to cede the floor.
During the voice vote, Democrats could be heard yelling against the motion. Since the voice vote was unclear, the motion moved to a recorded vote, where it passed along party lines 20-18.
Republicans hold slim majorities in both the House and the Senate, but all 140 seats in both chambers are on the ballot in November. The GOP’s move was likely motivated both by a commitment to Second Amendment rights and a desire to avoid contentious legislation that could damage their reelection chances in the fall.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence called Virginia Republicans “cowards” and vowed to unseat them in November.
“Today, Tommy Norment and Kirk Cox revealed themselves as nothing short of cowards. But if these ‘leaders’ won’t enact solutions that their own constituents are demanding, then we’re going to fight tooth and nail for representatives who will. There are 119 days between now and Election Day, and we are going to work every single one of them to ensure that the next time these votes come around, we’re going to see real and meaningful action instead of this shameful nonsense.”