ROANOKE — 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.
Gov. Ralph Northam called for a special session in July to take up gun control measures in the wake of the May 31 mass shooting in Virginia Beach, but Republicans used their slim majorities in the General Assembly to end the session in just 90 minutes and shift the legislation to the crime commission. Republicans chastised Northam for pulling an "election-year stunt" and putting "politics over policy," and they said they would "take a thoughtful and deliberative approach."
Then the election happened last week. Republicans lost their majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate.
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."
Democrats campaigned on the promise of enacting gun control in Virginia. They've complained that Republicans for years bottled up their bills in committees.
After last week's election, Republicans canceled a meeting of the 13-member crime commission set for Tuesday. They had scheduled for the legislature to convene Nov. 18 to consider legislation, but now they've said that session will be pro forma, meaning it'll be brief and won't include any legislative action.
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 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.
“I suspect most of the work will be done in January,” Northam said last week.