VA Senate committee rejects assault weapons ban, wants more study

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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) - A Virginia Senate committee has rejected legislation banning the sale of assault weapons and the possession of high-capacity magazines.

The vote should effectively end consideration of the measure in the General Assembly this year.

The legislation was one of the eight bills Governor Northam touted as a response to the mass shooting in Virginia Beach and gun violence elsewhere in the state.

It was also the most controversial, drawing strong opposition from gun rights advocates across Virginia.

The debate continued Monday morning as the Senate Judiciary Committee considered House Bill 961.

"Time and time again we've seen these weapons cause fear, cause destruction and cause mass murder," one supporter of the assault weapons ban told lawmakers.

"This is not a weapon that is seriously a problem in Virginia," an opponent countered,

The vote wasn't close.

Four Democrats, including John Edwards and Creigh Deeds, joined Republicans in tabling the bill and calling for a State Crime Commission study.

"There are obviously a lot of questions about the definitions in this bill and definitions do matter," Deeds said as he moved to table the legislation for the General Assembly session.

"It is definitely one area that needed to be looked at with more depth, and by a team of people who have some knowledge in these things," Mitchell Tyler told WDBJ7.

The Co-owner of SafeSide Tactical in Roanoke was pleased with the vote on gun legislation he said was among his customers' greatest concerns.

Catherine Koebel was upset.

Active in the Blue Ridge Coalition Against Gun Violence, she was frustrated with Democrats she said had pledged to support the assault weapons ban.

"They didn't even water it down," Koebel said in an interview. "They could have easily passed a high capacity magazine ban. They could have done something. They chose to do nothing on this issue. And they gave the impression to voters that they intended to do something over the summer."

And although the vote should kill the assault weapons ban this year, WDBJ7 Political Analyst Harry Wilson says it will be back.

"This was sort of the first skirmish in what's going to be an on-going battle for several years I assume in the Commonwealth of Virginia," Wilson said. "So this was just the beginning. This was certainly not the end in any way shape or form."

EARLIER:The Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee has effectively ended consideration on an assault weapons ban for 2020.

Monday morning, the committee voted to pass by House Bill 961, instead choosing to ask the State Crime Commission for a study on things such as the definition of assault weapons and the effect of the bill.

HB 961 would prohibit the sale of certain semi-automatic military style assault firearms and the possession of high-capacity magazines.

It was introduced by Delegate Mark H. Levine (D-45) and passed the Virginia House last week. It was a top priority for Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, but moderate Democrats joined Republicans to reject the legislation.

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