Republicans’ decision to end special session an “insult" to Virginia Beach shooting victims’ families, lawyer says
By Keya Vakil
July 11, 2019

An attorney representing a man who lost his wife in the Virginia Beach shooting told the Virginian-Pilot on Wednesday that Virginia Republicans’ decision to end this week’s special session of the General Assembly after just 90 minutes was an “insult to the victims’ families.”

The session, which was called by Gov. Ralph Northam after the May 31 mass shooting that left 12 dead, was supposed to focus on the state’s gun laws. Instead, Republicans opted to adjourn the session until after this November’s elections without holding a single vote. 

The attorney, Kevin Martingayle, represents Jason Nixon, whose wife, Kate, died in the shooting. Martingayle told the Pilot that “adjournment without substantive discussion is outrageous,” and that  “everyone who voted to go home should just stay home and make room for new leaders.”

Martingayle also criticized legislators for using Kate Nixon’s name as a political prop. She had considered bringing a gun to work for protection, and some Republicans now want to pass bills that would allow people to do just that.

Martingayle told the Pilot that Jason Nixon is “extremely upset” after “seeing his wife’s name batted around like it’s some political tool.” 

“I think it’s an outrage,” Martingayle said. “If they would just have some decency for two seconds, they would see how this looks to a widower.”

After voting to adjourn the session, House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) said they are directing the Virginia State Crime Commission to study all legislation submitted for the 2019 Special Session and produce a report by Nov 12.

State Sen. Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach), who has come under fire for a potential conflict of interest when it comes to gun laws, told the Pilot that the session was a political ploy by Democrats and that lawmakers needed input from experts before having a substantive discussion. “If you want a good product, it takes time,” he said.

That rationale did not sit well with Martingayle, who said legislators failed to do their jobs. Martingayle said that lawmakers could have at least started discussions now and voted on the less controversial proposals, while addressing the more contentious bills later. 

Instead, Virginia’s lax gun laws will remain unchanged until at least November. 

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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