Republican leaders call for review of special session legislation

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Republican leaders in the General Assembly say a special session to address gun violence was called too early.

The special session, which Governor Ralph Northam called for in the wake of the Virginia Beach shooting on May 31, convened and adjourned within a few hours on Tuesday.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are reacting to the adjournment.
Northam and other Democrats are using terms like pathetic, disappointing and shameful regarding what happened in Richmond on Tuesday.

House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment say they want the Virginia State Crime Commission to review the shooting in Virginia Beach and the legislation that was submitted for the special session.

They also say the investigation into the shooting being conducted by Virginia Beach officials is ongoing and an independent investigation into what happened was recently authorized by the Virginia Beach City Council.

Cox and Norment sent a letter to Senator Mark Obenshain and Delegate Rob Bell, who are the commission chairman and vice chairman respectively, explaining what they would like to see from the review.

They say they hope the results of the independent investigation and the review by the Crime Commission will provide much-needed insight into the issues surrounding gun violence in Virginia.

According to Cox, having the commission conduct this review would have been more appropriate than calling for a special session before investigations were finished and would have followed a precedent set by then-Governor Tim Kaine following the mass shooting at Virginia Tech when he convened a review panel.

Cox and Norment have set a July 19 deadline for the Crime Commission to consider the legislation that was submitted for the special session. The commission will then report on its recommendations when the General Assembly reconvenes in November.

Scroll down to read statements from political leaders regarding the special session.

Governor Ralph Northam: I called legislators back to Richmond for this special session so we could take immediate action to address the gun violence emergency that takes more than a thousand Virginians’ lives each year. I expected lawmakers to take this seriously. I expected them to do what their constituents elected them to do—discuss issues and take votes.

An average of three Virginians die each day due to gun violence. That means hundreds of Virginians may die between today and November 18, the next day the legislature plans to work.

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.

Attorney General Mark Herring: That was pathetic. Virginians deserve better. There were important measures introduced that could save lives and keep Virginians safe, like universal background checks, a ban on high capacity magazines, silencers, bump stocks, and assault weapons, a reinstatement of the one handgun a month law, and red flag laws. But instead of a thoughtful discussion about how to keep our communities safe, Republicans in the General Assembly packed up and went home, but not before making sure they got paid for the day.

For years Republicans have hidden behind subcommittees to block these bills and duck accountability. This time they didn’t even pretend.

Delegate David Toscano: House and Senate Republicans today showed Virginia that the only vote they are willing to take regarding gun violence protection is a vote to delay, delay, delay. In the face of clear support for action now, captured by multiple polls and embodied by the energetic activists who rallied at the Capitol today, they abdicated their responsibility to serve their constituents and the Commonwealth of Virginia in an appallingly cynical political move to push any votes off until after the November general election.

I am disappointed but not surprised. Time and time again, whether it is about passing universal background checks for all gun purchases, or enacting measures that would permit a judge, after a hearing, to remove a gun from a person in a mental health crisis to prevent injury to self or others, the Republican leadership continues to stonewall and not even debate, much less pass, reasonable measures designed to reduce gun violence in the Commonwealth.

National Rifle Association: The National Rifle Association has a long history of working to reduce violent crime rates within the Commonwealth of Virginia. We commend the House and Senate Republican leadership for renewing the focus on putting violent criminals behind bars and a much needed refocus on mental health initiatives. Without a final report on the Virginia Beach investigation, this special session by Gov. Northam was a complete taxpayer-funded distraction. The discussion before the Virginia Crime Commission should focus on solutions that provide strong due process and puts a stop to the continued politicization of law-abiding individual’s constitutional rights.