Virginia Crime Commission aims to pick up General Assembly's slack on gun violence

By Davis Burroughs

August 19, 2019

The Virginia Crime Commission commenced a two-day series of hearings today aimed at addressing the epidemic of gun violence in a state where someone is shot every 9 hours. The criminal justice agency, which is bipartisan but led by Republicans, will hear what lawmakers, advocates, law enforcement officials, and experts propose to stop the violence, including a package of 60 gun safety bills that Republicans refused to debate earlier in the year.

GOP leaders say the goal is to provide next year’s General Assembly members with recommendations on gun reforms. “It is my hope and expectation that we’re going to adopt meaningful proposals at the end of this process that are going to keep communities safe across Virginia,” said Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Rockingham), who chairs the commission, in an interview with The Washington Post.

But Democrats and advocates told the Post that the Commission already has what it needs to make those recommendations. Monday and Tuesday’s meetings, they said, were designed to distract from Republicans’ failure to act earlier this year. In July, GOP leaders abruptly ended a reconvened session of the state legislature that Democrats organized to address gun violence after a shooter in Virginia Beach killed 12 people in a municipal building. Despite mounting public pressure for reforming the Commonwealth’s gun laws, which are looser than many neighboring states, and a panoply of legislative solutions brought to the table (many of which Democrats have pushed for years), Republicans sent lawmakers home after just 90 minutes without considering a single bill.

“It’s an absolute farce on the part of Republicans,” said Lori Haas, senior director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

“I personally have been advocating and presenting them with reports, and data, and research for 12 years,” Haas, whose daughter was wounded in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, said. “They were just looking for a way to kick the can down the road when all eyes were on them during the special session.”

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