In January, Virginia lawmakers killed a bill that intended to ban sales of large-capacity magazines, similar to those used in the recent Virginia beach shooting, reports the Washington Post.
The bill died along a party-line vote, which was an expected outcome that drew little public attention, because Republicans and some rural Democrats have been voting against essentially every restrictive gun bill for the past 20 years.
After the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, the GOP stopped a surge of support for gun control and instead enacted mental health reforms.
Public opinion has increasingly favored gun control in Virginia, but the state has historically been a symbol for gun rights, perhaps best represented by the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax.
Every year, the Democratic “common-sense” legislative measures, such as increased background checks, monthly handgun purchase limits, and regulation of guns in public buildings, are shot down by Republican majorities in the legislature. The GOP states that their goal is to protect people’s Second Amendment rights.
Democratic state Senator Adam P. Ebbin laments, “There’s been no tragedy that has gotten the [Republican] majority to think twice and consider reasonable efforts. Part of the problem is that the [Virginia] Citizens Defense League and the NRA have a stranglehold on the votes of the Republicans.”
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Citizens Defense League, defends his group.
“Gun control does not save lives. It endangers innocent life by making it harder for good people to defend themselves. The GOP leadership understands that basic truth.”
“D.C. has those 10-round restrictions and eight times the murder rate of Northern Virginia, which has no limits on magazine size.”
Lori Haas, state director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and mother of a victim in the Virginia Tech shooting, said:
“The gun lobby likes to blame the gun violence problem on persons with mental illness, and nothing could be further from the truth. While resources are necessary to increase services, and warranted for those state agencies and private organizations providing services, doing so is not going to stop the gun violence problem in Virginia.”
Virginia Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. claimed that it was insensitive to talk politics so soon after the Virginia Beach shooting.
“It is offensive, disrespectful, and tasteless that anyone — including Senator Ebbin and Ms. Haas — would use a tragedy like this to promote a political agenda less than 24 hours after families and an entire community have suffered a loss of this magnitude.”
Currently, the GOP has majorities in the House and the Senate. If Democrats wish to change the status quo, they would likely need to win control of both chambers.