As I anticipated would be the case, the Virginia Beach shooter seemingly purchased his murder weapon legally. Frighteningly, his purchases included a silencer and large capacity magazines. The latter are legal in Virginia thanks to Virginia Republicans who as recently as this past January killed a bill that would have outlawed large capacity magazines. As I indicated at the end of yesterday's post, if one wants to begin to end such carnage, the first step is to vote Republicans out of office at all levels of government. Should Democrats win control of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates in November, it would allow a flood of progressive bills, include gun control bills to finally win passage. A piece in the Washington Post at the Virginia GOP's all too typical killing of a bill that would have protected law abiding Virginians. (Note Virginia Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) disingenuous lie that it was too soon after the Virginia Beach killings to talk politics.) Here are article excerpts:
A Virginia bill designed to ban sales of large-capacity magazines similar to those used by the Virginia Beach gunman died in committee in January on a party-line vote.
The fate of the legislation, SB1748, was so widely expected that the outcome drew virtually no public attention. For more than 20 years, Republicans and a few rural Democrats in the General Assembly have killed almost every measure aimed at restricting gun ownership.
The GOP blocked a major push for gun control after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, where 33 people died. They chose instead to respond to that shooting by joining Democrats to enact mental-health reforms.
Each year, Democrats propose multiple gun-control measures, such as strengthening background checks, limiting handgun purchases to one per month and allowing localities to regulate guns in public buildings. They call these “common-sense” measures to save lives.
Each year, Republican majorities in one or both chambers of the legislature vote them down, usually in committee. GOP legislators say their goal is never to infringe on people’s Second Amendment rights.
“There’s been no tragedy that has gotten the [Republican] majority to think twice and consider reasonable efforts,” said state Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who sponsored SB1748 and is co-chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Caucus. A big reason, he said, is the political influence of gun rights organizations.
“Part of the problem is that the [Virginia] Citizens Defense League and the NRA have a stranglehold on the votes of the Republicans,” Ebbin said.
The NRA did not respond to requests for comment. It typically maintains a low profile in the days immediately after a highly publicized shooting incident.
After the Virginia Tech slayings, then the worst mass shooting by an individual in U.S. history, gun-control advocates led by then-Gov. Tim Kaine (D), now a U.S. senator, pushed hard to change some laws. The centerpiece of his package was a proposal to require gun sellers to conduct background checks on all buyers at gun shows.
Instead, with GOP support, the legislature lowered the standard under which a mentally ill person can be forced into treatment, and expanded the criteria under which a mentally ill person can be barred from buying or owning guns.
“The gun lobby likes to blame the gun violence problem on persons with mental illness, and nothing could be further from the truth,” said Lori Haas, state director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Her daughter was shot and injured at Virginia Tech.
Virginia Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) said it was too soon after the Virginia Beach killings to talk politics.
Virginia Beach police said their officers shot and killed the gunman after a lengthy gun battle in which he used two .45-caliber semiautomatic handguns that were purchased legally.
Along with the weapons at the scene, investigators found a sound suppressor and extended magazines, which contain more than the standard number of rounds.
Ebbin’s bill would have prohibited any person from importing, selling, bartering or transferring a firearms magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Eight Republicans voted it down, with six Democrats in favor, in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Jan. 28.
Another bill that died in the Virginia House in January would have allowed localities such as Virginia Beach to ban firearms from government buildings such as the one where the attack on Friday occurred. Virginia Beach Council member Guy King Tower said after the shooting that it was regrettable that the city needed state approval to take such actions.
The biggest change in gun laws in Virginia in recent years has been one that relaxed controls. In 2012, then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) signed a bill repealing the state’s one-per-month limit on handgun purchases.
Democrats have repeatedly sought to restore the limit, but without success. New York and other states have complained that the change has contributed to Virginia’s status as a major center of gun trafficking on the East Coast.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D), in an interview with NPR, said he would continue to push lawmakers to pass gun safety legislation. Northam noted that the GOP-controlled General Assembly killed gun-related bills he had proposed earlier this year as well as the year before. Earlier in the day, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) told MSNBC that it was time to enact “red flag” legislation, background checks and other gun regulations.
At present, the GOP holds two-seat majorities in both the House and Senate. Based on experience, Democrats would have to win control of both chambers to change the status quo.