‘Votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers’: Northam calls for special session on gun control

Virginia News

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WRIC/AP) — Governor Ralph Northam is calling for a special legislative session on gun control and is insisting that his proposals be voted on by the entire state legislature. He says Friday’s killings in Virginia Beach call for “votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.”

Gov. Northam’s bills include a ban on silencers and high-capacity magazines, as well as a broadening of the ability of local governments to limit guns in city buildings. The governor said he also wants mandatory, universal background checks before gun purchases; a limit of one handgun purchase per month; and a “red flag” law that would allow authorities to seize the weapons of those who are a threat to themselves or others.

Northam, a Democrat confronted with a Republican-controlled General Assembly in the middle of an election year, also said he wants every legislator to go on record for or against his proposals during the special session this summer, rather than avoid tough votes by quietly killing the bills in subcommittee.

“The nation will be watching,” the governor said, four days after Virginia Beach employee DeWayne Craddock used two semi-automatic handguns, a silencer and extended ammunition magazines to slaughter 12 people at a municipal building. Craddock was then killed in a gunbattle with police.

  • For complete coverage on the Virginia Beach shooting, tap or click here.

“But we must do more than give our thoughts and prayers. We must give Virginians the action they deserve. You see, Virginia is heartbroken. We are heartbroken for the families who have lost their loved ones,” Northam said.

Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) released a statement following the press conference, that read, in part: 

“We intend to use that time to take productive steps to address gun violence by holding criminals accountable with tougher sentences — including mandatory minimums.”

Another top Republican, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, indicated some willingness to debate a ban on large-capacity magazines, according to the Virginia Gazette, but told gun-control advocates outside his office that “nothing would have helped us in Virginia Beach.”

Northam got a standing ovation from gun-control advocates, state workers and elected officials as he said the massacre in Virginia Beach demands that lawmakers put saving lives ahead of party loyalty.

“Now, I’m calling on the elected officials of this commonwealth to become second responders. Your duty is clear: Rush to the scene and put a stop to this violence,” the governor said, noting that first responders saved lives in last week’s attack. 

“I applaud Governor Northam, who has seen the carnage of gun violence as a pediatrician, for calling the General Assembly to gather in a special session to find solutions. It’s painfully clear from the horrific shooting in Virginia Beach and the daily scourge of gun violence in communities across the Commonwealth that Virginia must pass commonsense gun safety reforms. When I was Governor following the tragedy at Virginia Tech, we made some progress to fix a flaw in the background record check system that allowed the shooter to purchase a weapon, but when we tried to do more to strengthen background checks, Republicans blocked our efforts. There’s a lot of unfinished business to make our communities safer. We need more than thoughts and prayers; we need action.”

— Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA.)

Northam has long advocated stricter gun control and gets an F grade from the NRA. He made the issue a top priority of his 2017 campaign, drawing from his experience as a pediatrician and Army doctor who has treated children and soldiers wounded by gunfire.

Craddock appeared to have had no felony record and is believed to have legally purchased his two .45-caliber pistols, authorities said.

A top gun-rights advocate, Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, denounced the special session as “political theater” and said the answer is to make it easier for people to carry weapons.

“There’s really nothing other than allowing people to protect themselves until the police get there that would have worked,” he said.

You can read Gov. Northam’s full speech here or watch the full press conference in the video below. 

Stay with 8News for updates on this developing story. 

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