Handling of General Assembly’s gun violence special session may have cost GOP at polls, political analyst says

Posted at 10:16 PM, Nov 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-10 22:16:37-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Republicans handling of Virginia General Assembly special session to address gun violence in July called by Gov. Ralph Northam in the wake of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach that killed 12 people may have cost the GOP at the polls, according to political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth.

"They didn't pass red flag laws. They didn't pass any kind of restrictions," Holsworth said. "Things that I think could have been very, very popular and might have inoculated themselves from some of the arguments Democrats made about gun safety."

Republicans adjourned 90 minutes into that session, which cost nearly nearly $45,000, and tasked the Virginia Crime Commission with studying the issue.

At the time, GOP leaders called the special session an election-year stunt.

"The speed which the governor called the session, the partisan demands for floor votes, the roadshow all demonstrate to me how the whole thing is just an election year stunt," Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said in July. "We all share the goal of reducing gun violence in Virginia."

Accordingly, the Virginia Crime Commission was scheduled to meet this week to discuss bills aimed at reducing gun violence. But that will not happen after Republican lawmakers  on Saturday cancelled the meeting following the outcome of the election.

Senator Mark D. Obenshain (R-Rockingham), Chairman of the Virginia Crime Commission, today announced the cancellation of the Commission’s meeting scheduled for Tuesday, November 12.

"For reasons both practical and pragmatic, the Crime Commission will not meet on Tuesday," Virginia Crime Commission Chairman Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) said. "The results of Tuesday’s elections, coupled with recent comments from Governor Northam regarding the fate of the legislation we’ve been reviewing, makes holding a meeting impractical."

Members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus scoffed at the cancellation.

“We can change the laws immediately, so why wait?” asked caucus member Del. Sam Rasoul (D-11th, Roanoke). “The voters have spoken. And the Commission’s recommendations can provide more context for legislators.”

However, GOP lawmakers still plan to release a report on the commission's findings in the coming days and will wait to address the bills during the new session in January.

House Republican Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said his party is ready to propose ideas to reduce gun violence in Virginia.

Democrat Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax County stands in her office in the Pocahontas Building Tuesday, December 18, 2018 in Richmond, Va.

Democrat Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax County stands in her office in the Pocahontas Building Tuesday, December 18, 2018 in Richmond, Va.

Woman will lead Virginia House of Delegates for first time 

Virginia Democrats scored major wins during the November election -- seizing control of the General Assembly.

As a result, for the first time in the 401-year history of Virginia’s House of Delegates,  a woman will lead the chamber.

House Democrats nominated Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (Fairfax) as speaker designee.

The northern Virginia Democrat will be the first woman speaker in Virginia history.

Del. Charniele Herring (Alexandria) will be the first African-American and woman to serve as majority leader.

Political analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth said the historic moment for Virginia comes at an interesting time.

"There's a sea-change that's occurred in Virginia politics with the election that occurred on Tuesday," Holsworth said.  "And now we're seeing the follow-up."

Democrats will now control every lever of Virginia government, so Holsworth said Filler-Corn's challenge is managing the competing wings of her own party.

"What we see inside the Democratic party, that we also see nationally too, is the emergence of this tension between what I would call the liberal or center-left Democrats and the more progressive Democrats," Holsworth pointed out.

Petersburg Del. Laschrese Aird vied for the speaker role, but said she will support Filler-Corn.

Democrats plan to pursue gun safety laws, pass the Equal Rights Amendment and address criminal justice reform, items long opposed by Republicans.

"They are going to be passed in rapid fire fashion, come January," Holsworth speculated.

House Republican leaders said it is highly concerning that Democrats chose delegates from northern Virginia to lead the chamber since it represents the entire Commonwealth.

As a result, GOP leaders said they worry voices from outside northern Virginia will not get a fair shake.

“So the Republicans, they'll be able to make statements, they'll be able to make protests, but they will have very little influence on the policy agenda the Democrats will put forward," Holsworth added.

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