A particularly vile assault weapon ban bill failed to make it out of committee in Virginia, a state where it looked like gun control was a foregone conclusion just a few weeks ago, particular with regard to an assault weapon ban. With Democrats taking the entire state and all the gun control rhetoric coming from the part and Governor Ralph Northam, it looked like a slam dunk.
Yesterday’s defeat, though, didn’t come out of the blue and it wasn’t a partisan thing. Not by a longshot. After all, it couldn’t be a partisan thing when the party in control of every committee is the very same party agitating for these kinds of policies.
And yet, some of those Democrats voted against the measure.
Virginia’s Democratic governor seemed poised to make broad changes to his state’s gun control laws, but was dealt a stinging blow by his own party Monday when a state Senate committee blocked a bill that would have, among other things, banned sales of assault weapons.
Four Democrats on Virginia’s Senate Judiciary Committee broke ranks with their party handing the Republican minority a victory in tabling the bill for the remainder of the year. It also sent the measure to the state’s Crime Commission for further review.
The bill would have banned the sale or transfer of certain assault-style weapons in Virginia. It also would have made it illegal to possess silencers and magazines holding more than 12 rounds.
After Monday’s 10-5 vote, state Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, called the four Democrats who voted to table the measure a “bunch of wimps,” according to The Washington Post.
Haas told Evans, “It’s absolutely ridiculous that Democrats walked back on this issue when it got them the majority in November.”
With its rich gun culture, Virginia historically has been loath to pass gun control measures.
So what really happened.
Well, Virginians happened. An estimated 22,000 of them descended on Richmond, VA on Lobby Day in an effort to have their collective voices heard. Some in attendance balk at the estimate, saying at least 30,000 attended.
If so, that’s a large chunk of the margin of victory Democrats had in the state.
It’s not surprising that some lawmakers looked at that and recognized that if they value their political careers, they’d best take it easy on the gun control. While they might get away with something like a universal background check–polling suggests they might, though support for such measures shifts after the mechanics of the bills become public–so-called assault weapon bans are often a bridge too far.
Especially this one, a bill that would turn people moving into the state into felons if they brought their legally purchased AR-15 and 30-round magazines with them. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that some Democrats recognized back this bill was political suicide.
Meanwhile, the urban Democrats who don’t have to worry about any of that are continuing to try and pressure their colleagues into risking their political lives while facing no real threat. I used to be stationed in Portsmouth, so I understand a bit about where Sen. L. Louise Lucas is from. She faces no repercussions for her gun control stance. Not politically, anyway.
But that’s not true of all the Democrats. Some represent at least some rural areas. Some just did win their office and they know damn good and well that this bill was just the same as putting in retirement papers.
They knew it because tens of thousands of Virginians showed up on Lobby Day to make sure lawmakers knew damn good and well that they didn’t have universal support to push their gun control agenda.
Now, Northam and company are left reeling after such a decisive blow to their agenda.
Who knows, this might be a portent of what’s to come for the rest of that agenda. Here’s hoping.