RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has set July 9 as the date for a special session of the General Assembly to take up gun-control legislation.
Northam (D) announced Tuesday that he would call lawmakers back to Richmond following last week’s mass shooting in Virginia Beach, in which a city employee killed 12 people and injured four more in a municipal building.
The shooter, who was killed in a shootout with police, was found carrying two legally purchased .45-caliber handguns. He also had a silencer mechanism and extended-capacity ammunition magazines.
In calling the session, Northam criticized Republicans, who control the General Assembly, for repeatedly killing gun-control measures in small committees without letting them get to the full legislature for votes.
He said his office will work with lawmakers to introduce measures that would require universal background checks; ban assault weapons, silencers and devices that make guns fire faster; and require that residents report lost or stolen firearms to police.
He also favors a “red flag” law that would enable authorities to seize weapons from anyone deemed to be a threat to themselves or others, as well as reinstating the state’s limit on purchasing handguns to one per month, a law that was repealed by Republicans in 2012.
Northam is also calling for measures to prevent children from getting access to guns and expand the authority of localities to prohibit guns in public buildings.
Republican leaders have said they will convene and consider ways to limit gun violence but emphasized that they oppose any efforts to limit access to guns for law-abiding citizens.
House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said he will propose ways to tighten penalties for violating gun laws, including mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes. Northam has said he will veto mandatory minimums because he believes they disproportionately affect people of color.
Republicans have argued that many of the measures proposed by Northam and other Democrats would have done little to prevent the shootings in Virginia Beach.
The shooter had bought the two weapons in 2016 and 2018 and underwent an extensive background check to legally purchase the silencer. Virginia Beach already prohibits public employees from carrying firearms in the office and also bans ammunition magazines that hold more than 20 bullets.
Northam has responded that the idea is to work more broadly to end gun violence, rather than addressing any specific shooting. He has noted that more than 1,000 Virginians died through gun violence in 2017, more deaths than caused by motor vehicle accidents.
His office said the governor is “requesting that members of the General Assembly engage in an open and transparent debate, in which the bills brought before the legislature are put to a vote by the entire General Assembly.”
There is no requirement on how long the special session will last. Once it convenes, lawmakers can adjourn immediately or take up as much legislation as they see fit.