Va. Democrats continue pushing gun reform in final days of session

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On Thursday, Virginia House Democrats renewed their call for gun reform.

At a news conference at the State Capitol, they challenged Republican leadership to revive gun safety bills that were killed earlier in the General Assembly session.

They included measures like banning bump stocks and prohibiting people under 21 years of age from purchasing semi-automatic rifles.

The push comes just about two weeks after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people died after a teenager opened fire.

“We have real world solutions at our fingertips,” said Del. Karrie Delany (D-Fairfax). “And we should implement them now.”

Del. Rip Sullivan (D-Fairfax) highlighted his HB198. It would have let law enforcement temporarily take guns away from people posing substantial risk to themselves or others.

But it never got a hearing.

“What haunts you about HB198 is that a bill like this in Florida just might have stopped Parkland. And a bill like this in Virginia just might stop the next one,” said Sullivan.

Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said that bill — and dozens of others — never had a hearing because of its significant financial impact. The House majority leader said one of his own bills was killed for the same reason.

HB198 was listed as having a fiscal impact of $521,489 in fiscal year 2019.

Aside from that, Gilbert said it is too late in session for the House to revive any bill.

House rules state the deadline was at cross over, which was mid-February.

“There is no mechanism to bring up a House bill after cross over,” said Gilbert.

Del. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville), who is the House minority leader, argues there’s more Republicans could be doing this late into session.

“They control the rules. If they want to bring a bill to the floor, they can tell us which ones they want, and we can pass them. This decision is totally in their hands,” said Toscano.

Gilbert said, even if their were a way to bring a bill back, these issues would take more than the nine days lawmakers have left in Richmond to sort through.

“Hopefully in the time that we’re going to have after session we can be thoughtful about trying to address ways that we can prevent violence in our communities in all forms. And we welcome having those discussions,” he said.

Gov. Ralph Northam, on the other hand, could still send down a bill, if he felt it would get enough support.

It is not yet clear whether that is in the works.

“Governor Northam will continue to do everything he can to advocate for commonsense gun safety reform and is encouraging legislators from both sides of the aisle to revisit the solutions outlined at the beginning of the legislative session,” said Northam spokesperson Ofirah Yheskel. “He and his team have reached out to Republicans in the General Assembly on the issue and continue to hope they will come to the table.”

The last day of session is March 10.

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