Watch: Gov. Northam calls for special session to address gun violence after Virginia Beach mass shooting

Posted at 9:42 AM, Jun 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-07 11:05:08-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Ralph Northam and other state leaders called for more gun control following the mass shooting last Friday in Virginia Beach.

In a news conference Tuesday, Northam said he will call a special legislative session to push for gun control legislation to combat gun violence.

The special legislative session will address requiring universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons, child access prevention, requiring people to report lost or stolen firearms and regulate firearms, including the accessibility of them in government buildings.

A look at banning the use of gun “silencers” – or suppressors – along with extending magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, will also be something Northam hopes will be discussed during the special legislative session.

“We must do more than give thoughts and prayers; we must give Virginians the action they deserve,” said Northam.

The call by Northam and other state leaders comes after Friday’s mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center that took the life of 12 people and left four others wounded.

“Tragic mass shootings draw our attention, but shootings happen in our communities every day. A 15-year-old boy was shot in Norfolk Sunday. A little girl was shot at a cookout in Richmond on Memorial Day weekend,” added Northam. “Four people were shot in Portsmouth this past weekend.”

Gov. Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring all visited Virginia Beach following the shooting. All three also spoke at Tuesday’s news conference, echoing the same call for change.

“No one should go to work, to school, or to church wondering if they will come home,” said Gov. Northam, “but that is what our society has come to, because we fail to act on gun violence. I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.”

Gov. Northam will announced the date for the special session will be July 9.

About a year ago, News 3 spoke with Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera, who called for similar reforms Northam has now also called for.

In response to the news conference from a majority of Democratic Party state leaders, Kirk Cox, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, released a statement saying Republicans will focus on bills holding criminals accountable and stiffening penalties, “not infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Cox has served as Speaker of the House of Representatives since January 2018. Before that, he was Majority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates from 2010 until he received his new position that he currently holds.

Below is his full statement on the opposition of Northam’s news conference remarks, plus condolences on the Virginia Beach mass shooting:

“The terrible shooting that occurred in Virginia Beach just four days ago is still painfully fresh for everyone, especially the 12 families that lost loved ones. First and foremost, we continue to pray for the victims, thank the first responders, and extend our gratitude to law enforcement for their dedication to the safety of that community.

“The Governor’s call to Special Session is hasty and suspect when considered against the backdrop of the last few months. While the Governor can call a special session, he cannot specify what the General Assembly chooses to consider or how we do our work. We intend to use that time to take productive steps to address gun violence by holding criminals accountable with tougher sentences — including mandatory minimums.

“Following the tragedy at Virginia Tech in 2007 and 2017’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, Virginia took a very deliberative approach that ultimately ended in substantive and bipartisan reforms to keep our communities safer. The governor’s call to Special Session is more likely to inflame political tensions than produce substantive public policy changes that will keep people safe.

“We believe addressing gun violence starts with holding criminals accountable for their actions, not infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. When the Special Session convenes, Republicans will put forward a package of legislation to stiffen penalties for those who use firearms to commit crimes, including mandatory minimum sentences. These steps, combined with our ongoing efforts to strengthen the mental and behavioral health system, are the best ways to keep our communities safe from those who commit violence with guns.

“The house of delegates will convene upon the Governor’s call as constitutionally required and work within the rules we adopt and the regular legislative process to consider any matter before us. Our actions will be based on sound public policy and the best interests of the Commonwealth.”

Later Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment Jr. issued the following statement regarding Northam’s call for a special session:

“It is Governor Northam’s constitutional prerogative to call the General Assembly into special session, and the members of the Senate Republican Caucus will be in attendance. The Senate of Virginia will proceed according to its Rules, giving all legislation the same public hearings and fair consideration received during a regular session.

“By calling the General Assembly into special session absent a specific plan or legislative package that hasn’t already been considered, the Governor’s actions today are in stark contrast to the deliberative approach employed by then-Governor Kaine after the murders at Virginia Tech. Disappointingly, this governor has opted for political posturing over solutions.

“The people of Virginia Beach, joined by all Virginians, continue to grieve last Friday’s horrendous murders. As the families directly affected are forced to say their final goodbyes to their loved ones, our hearts break with theirs and they remain in our prayers. They, and not politics, are our foremost priority.”

Click here to read the full copy of Northam's remarks.

Click here for our full coverage on the Virginia Beach mass shooting.

Faces of the Virginia Beach mass shooting