Republicans in the legislature have been furious at Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, over an email he sent to constituents Sunday about the school shooting in Florida with the headline, “How the GOP Makes it Easy to Commit Mass Murder.”
On Friday morning, the bad feelings spilled into the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services. Republicans killed a Levine bill related to mixed beverages at museum events after committee Chairman Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, lectured Levine over “civilities of the chamber.”
Levine’s bill had previously passed the Senate but was then sent back to the committee. Senators have opted to hold up his bills in retaliation for his email, which said of the AR-15 rifle: “Original version created by Nazi Germany; Modern version legalized by the GOP.”
Republicans made Levine wait until all other bills had been heard Friday, and then Reeves cut him off as he began speaking.
“Delegate Levine, let me just hold you up there. Because you’re back here, unfortunately, I don’t know if we chalk it up to being new or what, but you’re here because I think some civilities of the chamber have been violated,” Reeves began.
Levine, one of the most liberal members of the House, is in his second term.
Reeves, elected in 2011 and in his second term in the Senate, is a former police officer who has held fundraisers in which attendees were invited to fire machine guns.
“We in this chamber, and I’ll speak to this chamber, have some unwritten rules of things we do and don’t do down in the General Assembly when we’re here,” Reeves continued. “I absolutely love my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and we get along, we have dinner, and we tend not to do things that are inappropriate while we’re down here.”
“You’ve taken some action in the last few days to demonize some folks on the other side of the aisle, and I think they took that rather personally, and that’s why you’re back here. I’m not here to lecture you. You’re a grown man.”
Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, made a motion to kill Levine’s bill. Democratic Sens. Barbara Favola of Arlington and Lionell Spruill of Chesapeake, tried to interject.
“Guys, we’re done,” Reeves said. “I just want to get out of here.”
Republicans, who control both chambers of the legislature, killed all Democratic gun control bills this year, prior to the Feb. 14 mass shooting that killed 17 people in a Florida high school.
In a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Levine said he genuinely likes most Republicans and said their action in the committee hearing will do nothing to stop gun violence:
“When weapons of war are legally sold to dangerous people who shouldn’t have access to them and used to gun down innocent children, I don’t think the House of Delegates should refuse to allow us to vote on whether we should be keeping this legal or not.
“I introduced five gun bills this session. Two of them have policies endorsed by the president, a ban on bump stocks and universal background checks. Two of them — on access to firearms by people who have committed domestic violence and access by those involuntarily committed for serious mental illness — were not even allowed a hearing.”