RICHMOND — A meeting of the state crime commission scheduled to address gun control was abruptly canceled Friday afternoon by its chairman, Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham.
Obenshain cited the results of Tuesday’s elections, which washed away Republican majorities in the House and Senate — opening the path for Democrats to move on gun-related proposals long blocked by the GOP.
“The results of Tuesday’s elections, coupled with recent comments from [Gov. Ralph Northam] regarding the fate of the legislation we’ve been reviewing, makes holding a meeting impractical,” Obenshain said, referring to promises from Northam to move ahead on the issue when the new legislature convenes in January.
Northam had called for a special session on gun control in the aftermath of the May 31 shooting in Virginia Beach that left 12 people dead. Lawmakers in the General Assembly convened for 90 minutes July 9 before GOP leaders abruptly adjourned it without taking votes on any measures. Republicans instead referred the bills to the state’s GOP-controlled crime commission for study.
On the campaign trail, Democrats derided the move as a punt to avoid public votes on gun control legislation before the election.
The commission has since been reviewing dozens of pieces of legislation related to gun violence. Two days of public hearings in August saw dozens of people appear in order to advocate on the issue.
Kristen Howard, the commission’s executive director, said a report on the issue will be released Tuesday.
The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene Nov. 18 to take up gun-related proposals, although the outcome remains unclear.
Northam had urged the legislature to consider a variety of gun-control measures, including universal background checks, red flag laws, restrictions on assault-style weapons and reinstatement of the one-handgun-a-month law.
He said Wednesday that whatever the results of the report or Nov. 18 session, Democrats would move to take action on gun control.
“I suspect most of the work will be done in January,” Northam said.