RICHMOND — Lawmakers will review dozens of pieces of legislation aimed at reducing gun violence when the General Assembly reconvenes Tuesday for a special session.
Gov. Ralph Northam called for the special session in the wake of the May 31 shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building that left 12 people dead.
Democrats have filed gun control bills, while Republicans have filed legislation toughening punishments for gun offenses as well as other proposals intended to enhance security.
Republicans control the legislature, and therefore the fate of bills. Legislation will start out in committees, where the bills will receive scrutiny and a vote on whether they will advance to the floors of the House of Delegates and Senate. In recent years, gun control legislation has not reached the floors.
Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, filed a bill that would allow a locality to adopt an ordinance that prohibits firearms and ammunition at any meeting of a local governing body if there is public notice of such a prohibition in the room.
Edwards sponsored the same bill during the spring legislation session at the request of the Roanoke City Council, but the bill died in a Senate committee on a party-line vote with Republicans in the majority.
Edwards is also presenting a bill allowing localities to adopt ordinances governing the possession, carrying, storage or transportation of firearms, ammunition and other components.
Because Virginia follows a legal doctrine called the Dillon Rule, localities have only the powers granted by the state.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, is putting forth six bills, including one that would require all employees in state and local government buildings to be screened at security points.
“We can either have political theater or serious policy discussion,” Stanley said about the special session. “I plan to treat this seriously because that’s what people elected me to come here and do. Not pontificate and posture.”
Two of Stanley’s bills would hold companies liable for failing to properly handle threats and violence.
One bill requires social media companies to report threats of violence in Virginia to law enforcement, and if they fail to do so and the person who posted the threat inflicts harm, the social media company will become civilly liable to the person, company or government agency harmed.
The other bill would require businesses to conduct risk assessments of employees who commit workplace violence or make threats and then report the incident to law enforcement. The company also would have to provide resources to the employee. Failure to do this in the event the person harms someone in the future would make the company liable.
Stanley also filed a bill to allow schools to use law enforcement officers as volunteers for security. He also wants people convicted of crimes to be able to have sentences reduced if they provide substantial assistance to further investigations in terrorism, gang and firearm theft crimes.
More than three dozen bills have been filed as of Monday evening. Here are some of them:
n Sen. Thomas Norment, R-James City, filed a bill to prohibit people from carrying guns and ammunition in government buildings and makes the punishment a Class 6 felony (punishable by up to five years in prison, or less than 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500). He has another bill that would require state police to enter a person’s name and description into the Virginia Criminal Information Network if they are denied an application for a concealed handgun permit.
n Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, sponsored a bill to allow local government employees to carry a concealed weapon at work if they have a concealed handgun permit. He also wants to codify the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which established a constitutional right to own a gun for self-defense.
n Del. Richard Sullivan, D-Fairfax, and Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, are carrying bills for extreme risk protection orders to allow a police officer or prosecutor to petition a judge for a warrant to seize legally owned guns if someone is determined to be an immediate threat to themselves or others.
n Del. Jeion Ward, D-Hampton, and Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, patroned bills to reinstate the one-handgun-a-month law.
n Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach, patroned bills that impose mandatory minimum sentences: six months for pointing a firearm at a law enforcement officer as well as three years for violation of a protective order while knowingly armed with a firearm or other deadly weapon. Another bill says that a person is guilty of a separate felony if carrying a concealed firearm while committing or attempting to commit another felony, and the first time brings a mandatory minimum of three years and the second or subsequent offense at least five years.
n Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, filed a bill that imposes an additional two-year mandatory minimum for use or display of a firearm while committing a felony if the firearm is equipped with a silencer.
n Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, introduced legislation to eliminate video-training as an option for concealed-carry permits. He also wants to allow localities to ban guns in local government buildings as long as the localities include additional security, such as metal detectors and security personnel at buildings’ entrances.
n Del. Cliff Hayes Jr., D-Chesapeake, and Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, have bills that would make it a Class 6 felony for anyone to recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a way as to endanger the life or limb of anyone under 18.