Virginia GOP: Panel should review gun issues

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — 2 p.m.

Courtesy: WHSV

Republican leaders in Virginia's General Assembly say the state's crime commission needs to take a measured look at gun issues to try to find a bipartisan solution.

The GOP adjourned a special legislative session Tuesday without considering Democrats' request to vote on a series of gun control measures. The session lasted less than two hours.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam called the session in response to the Virginia Beach shooting that killed a dozen people in May.

House Speaker Kirk Cox says the special session was premature because the Virginia Beach shooting is still being investigated.

Cox and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment say Northam should have called for a blue-ribbon commission to study gun and mental health issues like former Gov. Tim Kaine did after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

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1:30 p.m.

The Virginia General Assembly has voted to adjourn until November, as Republicans rejected Democrats' request to vote on a series of gun control measures.

The special session on gun violence got off to a chaotic start Tuesday before ending the same day without any action taken.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam called the special session in response to the May 31 mass shooting in Virginia Beach in which a city employee killed a dozen people.

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UPDATE (12:35 p.m.):

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment says he's spiking his gun-control legislation, only a day after proposing to ban guns in all government buildings statewide.

Norment's statement says he'll ask that Senate Bill 4013 be stricken in committee, because "as currently drafted, the legislation represents neither my views nor my intention."

He says he won't support "any measure that restricts the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens."

The reversal comes after Senate GOP majority whip Bill Stanley resigned to protest Norment's bill. Norment then apologized to his caucus and moved to reinstate Stanley to his key leadership post. Stanley was the only one of his Republican colleagues to vote against himself.

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UPDATE (11:50 a.m.):

A Virginia Republican senator has resigned his leadership role to protest a top Republican's push to ban guns in government controlled buildings.

Sen. Bill Stanley told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he's resigned as majority whip of the GOP Senate caucus after Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment sponsored legislation to implement a broad ban on guns in government buildings.

Norment's legislation caught both Republicans and gun-control advocates off guard. His GOP colleagues immediately pushed back. They say it's an infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens to prevent them from carrying guns into government buildings.

Norment is married to a lobbyist for the city of Virginia Beach, where a municipal worker gunned down his co-workers in a mass shooting.

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UPDATE (9:45 a.m.):

Advocates for and against stricter gun laws are holding rallies at the Virginia Capitol as lawmakers gather for a special session.

Gun-control supporters demonstrated on Capitol Square Tuesday morning to urge lawmakers to pass a package of measures proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam. The Democratic leader called a special session in response to the May 31 mass shooting in Virginia Beach in which a city employee killed a dozen people.

The rally started with advocates reading out the names of the state's recent gun violence victims, including those in Virginia Beach.

Northam then led the gun-control advocates in chants of "enough is enough."

A small group of gun-rights supporters also gathered. One man said the Virginia Beach shooting shouldn't prompt the government to take away his guns.

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July 8

A top Virginia Republican is calling for a broad ban on guns in government buildings, surprise legislation he filed the day before state lawmakers are set to debate gun laws.

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment filed a bill Monday that would extend a state prohibition on guns in courthouses to any "building owned or used by a locality for governmental purposes." It would also increase the penalty for breaking the law from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered lawmakers to return to the Capitol on Tuesday and called on them to pass a wide range of gun-control measures. The governor, a Democrat, called for "votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers" after a Virginia Beach city employee shot and killed 12 people at a municipal building on May 31. One of Northam's proposals would strengthen local governments' ability to enact gun laws that are stricter than what state laws allow and ban guns in municipal buildings.

Norment's bill was unexpected, as Republicans have historically blocked gun-control measures and previously said Northam's proposals have little chance of passing.

Norment, in a statement, declined to say what prompted him to file his legislation.

"The governor had nothing to do with this bill," Norment said.

He added that his legislation "would not achieve the governor's stated objectives regarding the authority of local governments" but he did not elaborate.

Norment's proposal was embraced by gun-control advocates and panned by gun-rights supporters.

"Like every other gun control scheme proposed for this special session, this measure would not have prevented the tragedy at Virginia Beach," National Rifle Association spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said. "Instead of seeking to disarm law-abiding Virginians, lawmakers in Richmond ought to focus on real solutions to crime, including reforms to our broken mental health care system and enforcing laws already on the books."

Lori Haas is a gun-control advocate and the mother of a student who was shot and survived the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. She said city and county councilmembers around the state "want to conduct local business without an armed person standing at the podium threatening them." She praised Norment's legislation.

"It is very much a step in the right direction," Haas said.

Despite his role as the Senate's top Republican, it's unclear if Norment's measure has much chance of success. Republican Del. Glenn Davis, who represents Virginia Beach, filed a similar measure Monday — indicating at least some level of GOP support.

But Republicans have been mostly unified in opposing Northam's gun-control agenda, and House Republican leaders have made it clear that gun-control measures have little chance of passing their chamber.

Republicans currently have a narrow majority in both the House and Senate. The special session in playing out in the middle of a heated election year, where partisan control of the General Assembly is up for grabs.