Action on gun control "a given" experts say, as Democrats take House, Senate

Published: Nov. 7, 2019 at 12:09 AM EST
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It may have been the most contentious issue in the Commonwealth in 2019. Gun control has dominated debate in Richmond for the last six months. But after a bitter stalemate with Republicans, experts say Democrats now have a prime opportunity to act.

Speaking to reporters the day after Democrats took both the House of Delegates and the Senate, Gov. Ralph Northam told reporters he intends to reintroduce legislation he first proposed after the Virginia Beach shooting.

"They are pieces of legislation that will save lives in Virginia. They are also pieces of legislation that Virginians agree with, the great majority of them," he said.

According to WDBJ7 political analyst Dr. Harry Wilson, expect to see at least some of that legislation passed in the next few months. "I would assume that's almost a given," he said.

Wilson says the party will likely be taking up a wide range of proposals, everything from an assault weapons ban to laws limiting people to purchasing one hand gun per month. But, he says, two items are almost a guarantee: "Virginia's going to see universal background checks, and Virginia's almost certainly going to see red flag laws in one form or another."

However, Democrats only gained a two-member majority in the Senate on Tuesday. And Wilson says that may force them to moderate some of their proposals. "I think that's something really to watch for."

The current General Assembly and Senate, with its Republican majority, will have one more opportunity to tackle the gun control issues themselves later this month. And, Wilson says, Republicans could take some action while they're still in the driver's seat.

"Do you want to deny the other side a victory? So it's like, 'We'll pass it so you guys don't get the opportunity to pass it,'" said Wilson.

Democrat Jon Edwards represents the Roanoke area in the state Senate. He says even if Republicans do take action next week, the coming Democratic majority will be ready to step in to advance the rest of their agenda in January.

"And so now I think we can make a lot of progress. I'm looking forward to it," he said.

We reached out to both House and Senate Republicans for comment on this issue. When we hear back, this article will be updated.

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