A special session on gun control that Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday is scheduled for July 9, according to a proclamation the governor signed Friday.
Northam is summoning the members of the General Assembly to consider a slate of proposals related to firearms following the Virginia Beach shooting that left 12 victims dead and the gunman.
It’s unclear how long the session will last. Lawmakers will have to decide on the parameters for the session as it kicks off on July 9, voting on a joint resolution that will determine the length, structure of committees and what topics can be considered. Northam has requested that all of his proposals be put to a vote by the entire body of each chamber.
The resolution will be worked out between House and Senate leaders; both chambers are controlled by Republicans.
“There is no clear timetable for how long lawmakers will be in Richmond,” said Matt Moran, an aide to House Speaker Kirk Cox, adding that a resolution will be drafted over the next couple of weeks.
Northam’s call came less than a week after a Virginia Beach city employee opened fire on colleagues at the city’s municipal complex, dying in a gunbattle with police. The gunman used two .45-caliber handguns with extended magazines and a legally obtained silencer.
Northam said he will seek measures including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons to include suppressors and bump stocks, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and to restore a state law, repealed in 2012, to restrict handgun purchases to one a month.
Northam also plans to propose legislation that would set tougher penalties for leaving a loaded gun near a child, that would allow for “extreme risk” protective orders to remove guns from people deemed a risk to themselves or others, and that would require people to report stolen or lost guns within 24 hours.
Northam is also pushing for legislation to allow localities to regulate firearms within their jurisdictions — including banning them in government buildings.
House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, said in an interview that Northam’s proposals will be the focus of their caucus during the special session.
She said that the work of the Safe Virginia Initiative formed by the caucus to address gun violence supports Northam’s approach, despite criticism from Republicans.
“They say we’re trying to take guns away from law-abiding citizens,” Filler-Corn said. “We came up with bills that would not do that. What more can we do?”
House Speaker Kirk Cox said earlier this week his caucus is still working on a legislative package, but that House Republicans would almost certainly introduce a bill to impose a minimum sentence for repeat domestic abusers.
Broadly, Cox said he wants “tougher penalties” for firearm crimes and more mental health supports.
Former Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, and former Del. Matthew James, D-Portsmouth, resigned from their posts to take jobs in the Northam administration. Their seats will be vacant during the special session. Republicans hold a 20-19 edge in the Senate and a 51-48 edge in the House.