On Wednesday, what seems like a whole lot of nothing happened when the General Assembly convened for a special session called by Gov. Ralph Northam in response to the Virginia Beach shooting at the end of May. Northam proposed a package of gun-control legislation.
After less than two hours, the special session was adjourned until November — after elections.
Republican lawmakers were vocal since the session was called about thinking it was politicizing the tragedy for the governor’s own gain, according to multiple reports. Maybe they were right, maybe they weren’t. But now we have lost the chance to have prompt political discourse around the issue.
Republicans did assign the state’s bipartisan crime commission to study policy proposals that might have prevented the shooting, according to the Associated Press.
“Quite frankly, we need to take a little bit deeper look at these issues and actually do something rather than stage manage a vote in which we’re just trying to embarrass each other,” state Sen. Mark Obenshain said in an AP report.
He makes a good point, and it’s smart to look at the issues at hand to get a full-scope of what could be done to stop another version of this tragedy from happening in the future. But part of “looking into it” could have been having discussions and debates in the political setting of the General Assembly.
Whether you’re pro- or anti-gun control, this wasn’t really a victory for either side or anyone who falls in between. Clearly in this country we have a problem with massacres. Maybe it’s a gun issue. Maybe it’s a mental health issue. Maybe it’s something completely different. Maybe it’s a combination. If we’re going to find out, both sides need to make sure we have real discussions and investigations that go beyond the stereotypical ideas of what each party will or will not do.
Assigning the crime commission to study policy proposals could be a pivotal step, and that could have been positively compounded with political discussions and debates on both sides of the aisle. While there may have been conflicting views on the origin of the session being called in the first place, it still was an opportunity to actively engage on the issue.
Richard Keene, a 51-year-old gun owner from Chesterfield, said it all turned out to be “a lot of hype for nothing,” in an interview with the AP.
“I’m a little disappointed in everyone, actually,” he said. “I don’t feel like the common, normal person, the normal American, is represented anymore. It’s frustrating.”