Pictured: This Monday an. 20, 2020 file photo shows pro gun demonstrators holding signs in front of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va. In a state once synonymous with the Old South, Democrats are using their newfound legislative control to refashion Virginia as the region’s progressive leader on racial, social and economic issues. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s push to ban the sale of assault weapons failed on Monday after some of his fellow Democrats balked at the proposal.
Senators voted to shelve the bill for the year and ask the state crime commission to study the issue, an outcome that drew cheers from a committee room packed with gun advocates. Ironically, it was Democrats that assailed Virginia Republicans for the same action following the Virginia Beach shooting.
Four moderate Democrats joined Republicans in Monday’s committee vote, rejecting legislation that would have prohibited the sale of certain semiautomatic firearms, including popular AR-15 style rifles, and banned the possession of magazines that hold more than 12 rounds.
The bill was a top priority for Northam, who has campaigned heavily for a broad package of gun-control measures. The governor’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said he’s disappointed with the result but determined to continue to press for the measure.
“We will be back next year,” she said.
David Majure, a gun-rights supporter who attended the committee hearing, said he’s glad about Monday’s results but not convinced the bill is dead for the year.
“I’m happy about it, but I don’t trust them,” he said.
Virginia is the current epicenter of the country’s heated debate over guns, as a new Democratic majority seeks to enact strict new limits.
Democrats ran heavily on gun control during last year’s legislative elections when they flipped control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades.
But gun owners, especially in rural communities like the Eastern Shore, have pushed back hard. Last month, tens of thousands of guns-rights activists from around the country flooded the Capitol and surrounding area in protest, some donning tactical gear and carrying military rifles. And more than 100 counties, cities and towns have declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, vowing to oppose any new “unconstitutional restrictions” on guns.
The proposed assault weapon ban has received the most opposition. Gun owners have accused the governor and others of wanting to confiscate commonly owned guns and accessories from law-abiding gun owners. Northam and his allies have said repeatedly they do not want to confiscate guns, but argued that banning new sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines would help prevent mass murders. However, Northam did admit none of the gun control bills would have stopped the Virginia Beach shooting.
Senator Lynwood Lewis has stated several times that he was concerned that a proposed assault weapons ban would create criminals out of law abiding citizens. Lewis said he would oppose such legislation.