Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Friday that he will seek new gun-control legislation in Virginia in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, including bans on bump stock devices, high-capacity magazines and “military-style assault rifles.”
McAuliffe, who will leave office early next year under Virginia’s term limit, has already pushed unsuccessfully for universal background checks and restoring the state’s scrapped one-handgun-a-month law, but the Republican-controlled General Assembly has routinely blocked new gun restrictions.
The legislation McAuliffe called for Friday would also face steep odds, but the announcement might put Republican lawmakers on the defensive with all 100 seats in the House of Delegates up for grabs in next month’s election.
“The terrible tragedy we witnessed in Las Vegas earlier this week should be a wake-up call to leaders in every corner of this country, particularly here in Virginia, where the mass shooting at Virginia Tech taught us the heartbreak of these events firsthand,” McAuliffe said in a news release. “Elected officials who have the honor of serving here in Richmond have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent the next mass shooting from happening in our commonwealth.”
Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, the Democratic candidate for governor, said Friday that he too supports banning bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and “assault weapons.”
“Until I do not have a breath left in my lungs, I’ll stand up for the safety and security of all Virginians,” Northam said in a statement.
Though Republicans and gun-rights groups have resisted calls to ban assault weapons, calling the term ill-defined and overreaching, proposals to ban bump stocks appear to be building broad support. The Vegas shooter used the devices, which convert semi-automatic rifles to function as if they were fully automatic, to rapidly spray bullets into a crowd at a country music concert, killing 58 people and wounding more than 500.
Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for governor, said Friday that he also would support banning or regulating bump stocks.
“It seems pretty evident to me that we rightly outlaw automatic weapons in this country and that bump stocks effectively serve to get around that law,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie said he understands the “emotional response to do something” after a mass shooting, but data show that violent crime has gone down as gun ownership has risen.
The head of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun-rights group that lobbies at the General Assembly every year, sent an email to his members Tuesday night urging them to “stay in the fight” after Las Vegas.
“There is no compromising with gun controllers. Their version of compromise is for gun owners to give up everything and gun controllers to give up nothing,” wrote VCDL President Philip Van Cleave. “ And, until all guns are confiscated, the gun controllers will never, ever be satisfied.”