Virginia Governor Announces Legislation for Special Session on Gun Violence

Northam’s 8-part legislation, which will ban assault weapons and require universal background checks, will have to pass in Virginia's majority-Republican General Assembly

Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced legislation Wednesday that would require universal background checks and ban “dangerous weapons” like assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The eight-bill package, designed to improve public safety in Virginia, will be discussed during a special gun violence session July 9, according to a press release.

“Now is the time to act — Virginians deserve votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers,” Northam said.

Northam announced the special session in response to the May 31 Virginia Beach mass shooting that left 13 dead, including the gunman, who was killed by police.

Currently, Virginia law contains a loophole allowing the transfer of firearms between unlicensed sellers without a background check, according to the Giffords Law Center, a nonprofit aimed at preventing gun violence.

Northam’s proposed bill would close that loophole by requiring “any person selling, renting, trading, or transferring a firearm must first obtain the results of a background check before completing the transaction.”

A recent poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy found that a narrow majority of Virginia voters said “it is more important to control who owns guns than to protect gun ownership rights.” The same poll found that Virginia Republicans were “evenly split or slightly opposed” to banning assault-style weapons, while Democrats were “overwhelmingly in favor.”

Northam, a Democrat, faces a majority-Republican House of Delegates and Senate in order to pass these bills.

“Every year, we fight to pass common sense legislation to prevent gun violence in the commonwealth, and every year our efforts are blocked,” said House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn. “It is time that we come together and enact these life-saving measures because doing nothing is not an option.”

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