Virginia Governor Exploits Virginia Beach Tragedy To Attempt Gun Control

Virginia Governor Exploits Virginia Beach Tragedy To Attempt Gun Control

Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam is calling for a special session of the state’s legislature to consider gun control measures following the tragic murder of 12 in Virginia Beach last week.

The scandal-plagued governor is pressing for gun control measures he pursued earlier in the legislative session, but were defeated by the narrowly held Republican majority. Northam is seeking a ban on standard-capacity magazines, modern sporting rifles, and suppressors, plus extreme-risk protection orders, mandatory home storage laws, and other measures.

Northam was flanked by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring. All of them are slowly emerging from their own scandals without being held accountable. Northam confessed to appearing in blackface after a photo emerged in his medical school yearbook, but later tried to deny it was him. Fairfax is accused of two separate sexual assaults and Herring also confessed to wearing blackface while at college.

Each has resisted calls to resign from office. The trio is now standing together to call for more gun control. In fact, it was the first time the three appeared in public together since their scandals arose.

Northam is attempting to claim the moral high ground, leaning on his days as an Army physician and his understanding of the damage a gunshot wound inflicts. The murderer in this incident, though, used handguns, not so-called “assault rifles.” Even Centers for Disease Control studies following the expiration of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, that also banned standard-capacity magazines, showed the bans did not reduce crime.

The murderer legally purchased the two handguns used in his crimes, passing the background checks Northam would impose to criminalize private sales. That includes the expanded background checks imposed for the purchase of a firearms suppressor.

Police noted nothing discovered in the investigation to date showed the murderer was posing a threat.  Even the mainstream media that is sympathetic to gun control causes noted that suppressor possession in larger cities in Virginia, including Virginia Beach, is illegal.

Further, firearms suppressors don’t eliminate the sound of gunfire. They only reduce it to a point where instant and permanent hearing damage still occurs. The sound is equivalent to that of a jackhammer. Virginia Beach’s Police Chief James Cervera said, “I don’t think most of that would have mattered in this case.”

That’s what the leaders of Virginia’s legislature are saying too.  Virginia’s Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox said Northam’s call for a special session was “hasty and suspect,” adding that any special session would focus on crime instead of criminalizing law-abiding gun ownership. Cox would focus his attention on mandatory minimum sentencing for crimes committed with firearms and behavioral and mental health reforms.

“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,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment added that the session was being called without a specific legislative agenda that wasn’t already considered. He added he expects the assembly to address the magazine capacity issue, noting that nothing new is being offered.

“Nothing would have helped us in Virginia Beach,” Norment told a crowd of protestors this week. “I think there are some things we can address” on gun violence, he said, but he didn’t throw his support behind Northam’s gun control agenda.

Northam isn’t offering solutions that would have prevented this tragedy. Sadly, he is just exploiting a tragedy to score cheap political points ahead of the state elections this fall.

Lawrence G. Keane is a senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.
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