Gov. Northam sets date for session on guns after Virginia Beach shooting

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP/WHSV) — Four days after a gunman opened fire and killed 12 people at a Virginia Beach government building, Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday called for a special General Assembly session on gun laws.

On Friday, he set that date for Tuesday, July 9.

He said this week that he wants “votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers” on gun safety proposals.

He wants the Republican-led General Assembly to consider gun-control measures including universal background checks and a ban on suppressors. Police say the gunman who fatally shot 12 people used one in his attack.

A press release from Northam also says he wants proposals on extreme risk protective orders, reinstating the one-gun-a-month law, child access prevention, requiring reports of lost and stolen firearms, and expanding local authority to regulate firearms, including in government buildings.

Northam can call the session but can't dictate how it's conducted. Republican leaders have given little indication they plan to follow his agenda. Instead, they've said they'll propose tougher penalties for those who use guns to commit crimes.

The Washington Post reports that Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark R. Herring expressed frustration over the weekend that Republicans who control the General Assembly have repeatedly stifled efforts to consider any form of gun control.

The Post says that Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, was open to discussion on gun control measures and that “there ought to be a meaningful discussion legislatively.”

Northam told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he wants the Republican-controlled General Assembly to hear from the public about the need for “common-sense” laws related to guns and accessories.

Northam told the AP that recent shootings - including the death of a 9-year-old girl in Richmond - are part of his reason for the special session.

“It’s an emergency here in Virginia, and it’s time to take action,” Northam said, according to the AP. “Every one of these pieces of legislation will save lives.”

He told the AP that he’s “not playing politics. ... I’m bringing people to the special session to save lives.”

At a press conference on Tuesday, Northam and Fairfax both said “thoughts and prayers” are not enough.

“We have a serious issue and we must take serious action to resolve it,” Fairfax said.

House Speaker Kirk Cox says the governor’s call for a special session is “hasty and suspect.”

“While the governor can call a special session, he cannot specify what the General Assembly chooses to consider or how we do our work,” he said.