Gun safety advocates rallying outside the state capitol on Tuesday

Virginia’s House and Senate Republicans voted to adjourn the General Assembly’s special session on gun violence on Tuesday afternoon, less than two hours after it began.

By adjourning until Nov. 18, Republicans are punting on the issue until after this November’s elections, when all 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for grabs.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam called the session after a gunman killed 12 people in a mass shooting in a Virginia Beach municipal building on May 31. Northam and fellow Democrats backed a slate of gun safety reforms, including universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. But Republicans control both houses of the General Assembly, and thus were able to shut down the session shortly after it began.

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 review the May 31 murders in Virginia Beach and the legislation submitted for the 2019 Special Session and produce a report by Nov 12.

The decision to end the session without holding a single vote or hearing was met with immediate backlash from Democrats.

Virginia’s existing gun laws are notoriously lax, having earned a “D” rating from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Today’s development is likely to exacerbate tensions even further in what is already an ugly battle.