On gun laws

Published 5:49 am Monday, November 25, 2019

After months of studying the causes of gun violence, the Virginia State Crime Commission issued a report with no recommendations on how to curb the deadly toll in Virginia.

The three-page report said crime commission staff “determined that inconclusive evidence exists to develop recommendations.”

“The absence of recommendations should not be interpreted as a finding that no changes to Virginia’s law are necessary,” the report states. “Any changes to these laws are policy decisions which can only be made by the General Assembly.”

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The crime commission, a bipartisan advisory body that studies criminal justice issues and makes recommendations to the General Assembly, met over two days in August, hearing from researchers and public health officials about data on gun injuries and deaths, as well as ideas for how to bring down the number of people shot in Virginia.

A researcher suggested that universal background checks, giving law enforcement discretion in deciding whether to grant a concealed carry permit, and prohibiting people convicted of violent misdemeanors from purchasing firearms would significantly reduce gun homicides in Virginia.

Northam said all the bills introduced during the special session will appear again when the legislature convenes next year.

Democrats’ proposals included a ban on military-style assault weapons, universal background checks, reinstating the state’s lapsed one-handgun-a-month law, and allowing courts to temporarily ban people from possessing firearms if there are clear signs that they pose a danger to themselves or others.

The Virginia House Republican Caucus, on Sunday, elected its leadership team for the 2020-2021 General Assembly. Delegate Todd Gilbert will serve as House Republican Leader, Delegate Kathy Byron was named House Republican Caucus Chair — the first woman elected to that post — and Delegate Jay Leftwich was elected House Republican Whip.

“I am honored to serve with and lead a united Republican caucus as we look toward the 2020 General Assembly session and beyond,” said House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah). “House Republicans will work with our Democratic colleagues where we can and serve as a contrast when we must. The General Assembly has a long history of civility and respect between the majority and minority parties and I look forward to the continuation of that practice.”

“I appreciate my colleagues support as caucus chair and look forward to serving the Republican caucus,” said House Republican Caucus Chair Kathy Byron (R-Bedford). “I also look forward to working with my Democratic colleagues as we work to improve the lives of all Virginians. The House of Delegates is a historic institution that has consistently taken a different approach to governing than Washington D.C. We disagree often, but rarely are we disagreeable. I look forward to continuing to uphold the longstanding traditions of civility and decorum in the General Assembly.”

“It is an honor to serve alongside and on behalf of my colleagues as the Republican Whip,” said House Republican Whip Jay Leftwich (R-Chesapeake). “Virginians sent us to Richmond to be their voice and improve their quality of life. We will put forward practical solutions to the problems people face every day.

In 2019, we passed a constitutional amendment that will end gerrymandering in Virginia once and for all. Having passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, we must pass the amendment once again to send the question to voters in 2020.

Democrat objections to the amendment are centered on a “Republican-appointed” Supreme Court as a backstop in case the commission fails.

By taking a short-term view, Democrats are showing that they’re more concerned with power than fulfilling their campaign promises. Democrats who suddenly develop cold feet on the amendment are simply showing their true colors — given the opportunity to abuse power themselves, they would walk away from their commitments and their constituents.

Virginia Supreme Court Justices don’t serve for life and will eventually be replaced by a majority vote of the House and Senate, and there’s certainly no guarantee that Republicans will be in the majority when those seats are up for reappointment.

When Republicans said we supported nonpartisan redistricting, we meant it.

Republicans will work to pass the second iteration of the resolution to put the constitutional amendment measure before voters on the 2020 ballot.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.