By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
At its June 25 legislative session, city council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution supporting the passage of gun safety legislation during the Virginia General Assembly’s upcoming special session.
After a May 31 shooting in Virginia Beach that left 12 dead, Governor Ralph Northam announced the general assembly would be meeting for a special session on July 9 to address “the emergency of gun violence in the commonwealth,” Sarah Taylor, the city’s legislative director, said.
“No one should go to work, to school or to church wondering if they will come home,” Governor Northam said in a statement on June 4. “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.”
In his call to the general assembly, Northam outlined several ideas to address the issue, all of which are included in city council’s resolution. These ideas include universal background checks; a ban on assault weapons, suppressors, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines; an “extreme risk protective order” to create a legal process for the temporary removal of guns from individuals that are thought to pose a violent risk to themselves or others; laws to prevent child access to firearms; the reinstatement of a “one-gun-a-month” law; and legislation that would grant localities the authority to prohibit or restrict possession, transportation or carrying of firearms, including in public buildings.
The resolution adopted by city council implores the general assembly to adopt these measures. It also pushes for a special session that would allow for votes to be held for each individual measure.
“We are hopeful that everything will be brought to a floor vote or will be considered by some committee of the whole,” Taylor said.
Prior to a special session, a procedural resolution is drafted and adopted by the Virginia General Assembly that lays out the guidelines of what will be considered and time frame for the session, Taylor said.
A special session follows the same procedure as a regular general assembly session. In order to pass a bill into law, the bill must pass with a simple majority in both the house of delegates and senate before being signed off by the governor, Taylor said in an interview. Unlike laws passed during a regular session that go into effect on July 1 of every year, a law passed in a special session goes into effect four months after the special session is adjourned.
“People are clearly committed to getting real work done on the issue of gun safety and common-sense gun control and whether that is something that can be done in the current political climate,” Taylor said. “There are two things that make any session work: One is rules and one is political will. And as much as we like to think one drives the other, that is certainly not always the case.”
Councilor John Chapman made a motion, seconded by Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, to adopt the resolution. It was adopted unanimously. Councilor Mo Seifeldein was not present at the meeting.
After the vote, Mayor Justin Wilson took time to address Northam’s idea of expanding a locality’s ability to regulate guns, particularly in government buildings.
“One of the conversations that I know is happening in a number of jurisdictions around Virginia is whether jurisdictions should get ahead of the game and begin adopting ordinances to reflect this authority, assuming that the authority is going to come,” Wilson said.
Wilson requested that council ask City Attorney Joanna Anderson to prepare an ordinance to that effect for introduction and first reading at council’s July 9 public hearing. According to Wilson, the intent would be to have final reading and passage on Sept. 14 after more is known about what has come out of the special session.
Chapman made a motion, seconded by Bennett-Parker, to request that Anderson draft the ordinance. Council voted unanimously to approve the motion.