Press Release

Giffords Backs Governor Northam’s Call for an Emergency Legislative Session to Address Gun Violence Following Tragedy in Virginia Beach 

June 4, 2019 — Following the tragic shooting in Virginia Beach that left 12 people dead and 4 others injured, Giffords, the gun safety organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, applauded Governor Ralph Northam for demanding that the General Assembly return to Richmond in the coming weeks for a special legislative session to address shortcomings and loopholes in Virginia’s gun laws.

Governor Northam called for a number of common sense gun violence prevention measures to be considered during a special session. These include universal background checks; extreme risk protection orders; limits on firearm purchases to one gun a month; requirements to report lost or stolen firearms; safe storage requirements; bans on assault-style weapons, bump stocks, and sound suppressors like the one used in the Virginia Beach shooting; and expanded authority for local municipalities to regulate firearms, including government buildings. Nearly all of these policies were proposed in the 2019 legislative session and blocked by the Republican majority. 

“Today, Governor Northam declared we must never accept gun violence as normal,” said Nico Bocour, state legislative director at Giffords. “He called on lawmakers to be leaders who will protect their constituents by standing up to the gun lobby that kept Virginia’s laws weak for years. The consequences have been devastating and made it feel like no place in Virginia is safe. Not one more community should have to go through what Virginia Beach suffered. Not one more family should have to face the unthinkable from the daily tragedies gun violence causes. Now, elected officials have a chance to step up and change Virginia. Time will tell if they follow through and pass historic gun laws that can save lives.”

In Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s annual scorecard, Virginia earned a D for its weak gun laws. Earlier this year, a number of local lawmakers who ran on a commitment to address gun violence made a push to strengthen Virginia’s laws. They fought for a number of strong gun safety measures, including expanding background checks, establishing an extreme risk protection order, banning bump stocks and high capacity magazines, and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

These measures, backed by Virginians, were voted down in committee by the Republican majority. The actions by those lawmakers to block comprehensive gun safety legislation came at a time when every 10 hours someone in Virginia was killed by a gun and when the crisis cost the state $5.3 billion a year. As a result of this refusal, Giffords recently began a push to bring a gun safety majority to the Virginia legislature with its first endorsements of the 2019 cycle.

The shooting last week happened at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, comprised of 30 buildings and annexes that includes city hall, courts, and offices for multiple city departments, a city directory shows. The shooting involved two firearms: a semi-automatic pistol and a rifle. The pistol used, a .45 caliber handgun, was equipped with a large capacity magazine and suppressor.

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