Dueling gun policy demonstrations face off on first day of Virginia special session

Dueling gun policy demonstrations face off on first day of Virginia special session
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Supporters and opponents of gun control legislation rallied ahead of a special session of the Virginia General Assembly on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) called the session to address gun control shortly after a Virginia Beach employee shot and killed 12 people in a municipal building on May 31 before being shot and killed by police.

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On Monday, state Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R) filed surprise legislation to ban guns in any government building, which drew the ire of fellow Republicans, including state Sen. Bill Stanley, who resigned as majority whip in protest.

“Sometimes you just gotta stand for principle, so I resigned,” Stanley told the AP.

But during a Senate caucus meeting before the beginning of the session, Norment apologized for the bill and made a motion to reelect Stanley as whip, which passed the caucus with Stanley himself as the only "no" vote.

Supporters of gun control legislation read out the names of recent victims of gun violence in the state on Capitol Square, with Northam leading a chant of “Enough is Enough” and others chanting “you vote today, we vote in November” in reference to the upcoming state legislature elections.

Gun rights proponents, meanwhile, demonstrated against gun control measures, many of them carrying holstered handguns in the Capitol, which is legal, according to the AP.

"Our members are concerned that Gov. Northam’s special session is a political stunt aimed at distracting from his scandals. They know that not a single one of Gov. Northam’s gun control measures would have prevented the tragedy at Virginia Beach," National Rifle Association (NRA) spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said in a statement to The Hill. 

“A lot of people say, ’Well, we’ve got to find common ground,' which means, ‘We’ve got to find gun control that you’ll accept,’ ” Jim Snyder, vice president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, told the AP, speculating that Northam called the session to take the focus off a blackface scandal that surfaced in February.

Updated at 2:30 p.m.