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Votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers’

Gov. Northam calls for special General Assembly session to deal with gun violence

Free Press wire, staff reports | 6/7/2019, 6 a.m.
Gov. Ralph S. Northam is summoning lawmakers back to the state Capitol for a special legislative session to consider gun-control ...
The combination of photos provided by the City of Virginia Beach on Saturday, June 1, 2019 shows victims of Friday's shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach, Va. Top row from left are: Laquita C. Brown, Ryan Keith Cox, Tara Welch Gallagher and Mary Louise Gayle. Middle row from left are Alexander Mikhail Gusev, Joshua O. Hardy, Michelle "Missy" Langer and Richard H. Nettleton. Bottom row from left are Katherine A. Nixon, Christopher Kelly Rapp, Herbert "Bert" Snelling and Robert "Bobby" Williams. Courtesy City of Virginia Beach via AP

VIRGINIA BEACH

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Gov. Northam

Gov. Ralph S. Northam is summoning lawmakers back to the state Capitol for a special legislative session to consider gun-control legislation, saying last Friday’s mass shooting in Virginia Beach calls for “votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.”

Gov. Northam said Tuesday that he wants every state lawmaker go on record for or against his proposals during the special session this summer, rather than let leaders shield them from tough votes by killing measures in subcommittees.

“I ask that the members of the General Assembly engage in an open and transparent debate and that the bills brought before the legislature are put to a vote by the entire General Assembly,” Gov. Northam said at a news conference, where he was accompanied by Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax, Attorney General Mark R. Herring and other elected officials, state workers and gun control advocates and given a standing ovation. “The nation will be watching.”

Among the proposals he will seek are universal background checks before gun purchases, limiting purchases to one handgun per month and a so-called red flag bill that would allow authorities to temporarily seize someone’s guns if they are a shown to be threat to themselves or others.

“It is wrong that we now view these mass shootings as the new normal,” Gov. Northam said. “It is past time to change.”

He said he had previously asked the General Assembly for a number of tighter gun restrictions, but lawmakers repeatedly rejected his requests. 

The Virginia Beach tragedy “must instill in us a new urgency to act,” he said. “If we can save one life because we acted now, it is worth it.”

DeWayne Craddock, a 40-year-old civil engineer who worked for the City of Virginia Beach for 15 years, used two semiautomatic handguns to kill 12 people last Friday in the nation’s deadliest mass shooting of the year. The fatal scene unfolded around 4 p.m. when the gunman shot the first victim outside Building 2, a three-story brick structure at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center where he worked with nearly 400 city employees.

Police say the shooter attached a suppressor, also known as a silencer, to the .45-caliber handgun that he fired on three floors of the building where he worked. Authorities found a silencer on one of the weapons and extended ammunition magazines.

Virginia is among 42 states that allow residents to purchase and possess suppressors, though some cities – including Virginia Beach – prohibit them.

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Mr. Craddock

After an intense gunbattle with police, Mr. Craddock was mortally wounded.

Four other people remained in critical condition after what authorities said were multiple surgeries since last Friday. Three were at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, a 273-bed acute care facility where Richmond native Elwood B. “Bernie” Boone III is president.

Gov. Northam traveled to Virginia Beach hours after the shooting, comforting survivors and helping coordinate the crisis response. He also spoke with President Trump and lobbied at a news conference last week for tighter gun controls.

Authorities said Mr. Craddock had legally purchased the handguns in 2016 and 2018, but have not said how he got a suppressor. They are still searching for clues into what triggered his actions. Authorities said he submitted a letter of resignation via email just hours before the shooting, writing that he was giving a two-week notice based on “personal reasons.”