Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox released the following statement Tuesday after Governor Ralph Northam announced he would call a Special Session following the tragic shooting in Virginia Beach.
“The terrible shooting that occurred in Virginia Beach just four days ago is still painfully fresh for everyone, especially the 12 families that lost loved ones. First and foremost, we continue to pray for the victims, thank the first responders, and extend our gratitude to law enforcement for their dedication to the safety of that community.
“The Governor’s call to Special Session is hasty and suspect when considered against the backdrop of the last few months. While the Governor can call a special session, he cannot specify what the General Assembly chooses to consider or how we do our work. We intend to use that time to take productive steps to address gun violence by holding criminals accountable with tougher sentences — including mandatory minimums.
“Following the tragedy at Virginia Tech in 2007 and 2017’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, Virginia took a very deliberative approach that ultimately ended in substantive and bipartisan reforms to keep our communities safer. The governor’s call to Special Session is more likely to inflame political tensions than produce substantive public policy changes that will keep people safe.
“We believe addressing gun violence starts with holding criminals accountable for their actions, not infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. When the Special Session convenes, Republicans will put forward a package of legislation to stiffen penalties for those who use firearms to commit crimes, including mandatory minimum sentences. These steps, combined with our ongoing efforts to strengthen the mental and behavioral health system, are the best ways to keep our communities safe from those who commit violence with guns.
“The House of Delegates will convene upon the Governor’s call as constitutionally required and work within the rules we adopt and the regular legislative process to consider any matter before us. Our actions will be based on sound public policy and the best interests of the Commonwealth.”