Dozens of Gun-Control Bills Filed as Special Session Begins

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There’s no shortage of proposed gun-control measures for Virginia lawmakers to consider as the General Assembly convenes in special session today. Gov. Ralph Northam convened the special session following the May 31 shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building that killed 12 people.

Most of the bills filed by Democrats would control the purchase, ownership and use of weapons while most of the Republican measures would increase penalties for existing laws.

With Republicans in control of both houses of the legislature, it’s not seen as likely that any strong gun-control measures will emerge from the session, which nevertheless gives both parties the opportunity to vent, strut and bloviate.

Many of the proposed bills are tightly focused on the Virginia Beach massacre but don’t address broader issues. For example, Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke) has introduced a measure that would allow cities to prohibit firearms and ammunition at city council meetings and similar sessions.

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City County) wants to ban guns in all local government buildings.

Social media targeted

One of the more prolific legislators — Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) — is proposing six bills, including one that would require social media companies to report any threats of violence in Virginia submitted or posted on their platforms. If the person making the threat carries through, anyone harmed would be able to sue the social media platform, the Roanoke Times reported.

“We can either have political theater or serious policy discussion,” Stanley said about the special session, according to the Times. “I plan to treat this seriously because that’s what people elected me to come here and do. Not pontificate and posture.”

While the issue may be political theater to some of the players, recent opinion polls have found Virginia voters from both parties strongly supporting background checks for gun purchasers and other gun-safety measures.

The polls conducted by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University found that a majority of Virginia voters say it is more important to control who owns guns than to protect gun ownership rights (54%-41% in 2018; 55%-41% in 2016).

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James R. Hood
James R. Hood is the editor and publisher of FairfaxNews.com. A former Associated Press editor and executive, he has more than 50 years of reporting experience.