Virginia commission reviewing gun violence laws holds first meeting

The topics on which the State Crime Commission heard from experts Monday

RICHMOND, Va. – For the first time since Virginia’s special legislative session came to an abrupt halt last month, lawmakers are sitting down to publicly discuss gun laws.

The first in a series of meetings wrapped up Monday afternoon in Richmond for the State Crime Commission, a group that could help decide the future of gun control in Virginia. It’s tasked with giving recommendations on specific bills to the General Assembly later this year.

The commission mostly focused on understanding statistics and current laws Monday. Members listened to, and asked questions of, experts from officers to health officials on current laws and gun crime data, including the effect of certain gun control laws in other states.

The Virginia Beach mass shooting and the abrupt end to the recent Democratic-called special session on gun violence led to these discussions. During the session, Republican lawmakers moved to send the dozens of bills on gun violence to the State Crime Commission, to be vetted, rather than debating the proposals at the Capitol first.

The commission is made up of lawmakers -- on both sides of the aisle -- as well as attorneys and law enforcement officers.

Democrats’ gun control and gun safety bills are focusing, in part, on bills that would:

-Expand background checks
-Ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, bump stocks and silencers
-Allow Extreme Risk Protective Orders
-Reinstate a one-handgun-per-month law
-Require the reporting of lost or stolen guns
-Add greater punishment for adults who allow minors to access guns
-Allow localities to regulate guns in government-owned buildings and at events

There’s one specific assertion that top Democrats stressed Monday -- that the research has already been done and Republicans can’t claim otherwise.

“I hope it doesn’t just boil down to politics and that these recommendations are taken seriously,” Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, told 10 News.

Democrats call their changes commonsense.

The Republican-led legislature has squashed many of these proposals before and the National Rifle Association has spoken out against them.

GOP leaders are proposing bills, among others, that:

-Make some criminal sentences tougher
-Improve security at schools and government buildings
-Mandate reporting of workplace violence threats

The discussions come as President Donald Trump in recent weeks has emphasized wanting to expand background checks and more Republicans are supporting Red Flag laws, also called protective orders.

There will be a public comment period during Tuesday’s meeting, after which meetings are scheduled for Oct. 15, Nov. 14 and Dec. 11.

It would likely be mid-November at the earliest before the commission would give its recommendations to the General Assembly on specific bills.