Much of the focus on results from Tuesday’s off-year elections has been on whether they might be proxies for the 2020 prospects of President Donald Trump and many of his fellow Republicans. But in Virginia, the bigger takeaway might involve a potentially seismic shift in gun policy.

Virginia, to remind, has endured several mass shootings, generally defined as a single episode in which at least four people were wounded; that differs from a federal definition of at least four people killed. Unfortunately for Virginia, it has experienced a lot of both.

In May, a former Virginia Beach municipal employee killed a

dozen ex-colleagues and wounded four others. Last year, four members of Congress were shot during a baseball practice in Alexandria (all survived but some suffered grave wounds). Just over a decade ago, a gunman with a history of mental illness bought two semi-automatic firearms and massacred 32 people — mostly students — at Virginia Tech, one of the deadliest mass shootings in the nation’s history.

Those tragedies apparently weighed heavily on voters Tuesday. In a poll released a month ago, about 3 in 4 voters listed gun policy as their top concern. But the issue is as fractious there as in the rest of the country, with Democratic officials supporting much more stringent controls than Republican officials — even though voters across the spectrum support some gun control measures.

The issue came to a head after the Virginia Beach killings when Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam convened a special legislative session to consider gun measures, which drew about 30 bills covering diverse reforms including expanded background checks and bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

But leaders in the Republican-led legislature abruptly adjourned the session after 90 minutes without passing any bills, a move that seems to have galvanized gun control supporters — Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety advocacy group spent $2.5 million on the campaign — and led voters to break the deadlock over the issue in Richmond, the state capital.

Now Virginians can prepare for some action as Democrats won control of the legislature, though how much change is to come remains to be seen.

But whatever happens in Virginia could have far-reaching effects. Because of the state’s relatively lax laws governing firearm sales, Virginia has become a

major source of guns confiscated in states with tighter controls. For example, a 2016 report from the New York state attorney general found that three-quarters of guns confiscated in that state were initially sold legally in other states, many of them in Virginia.

Of course, tightening gun control in one state is a baby step toward reducing access to firearms nationwide.

But considering the issue drove political change in the Virginia legislature itself could be read as a political message to legislators elsewhere: Listen to the voters and public opinion, not the gun lobby.

Copyright 2019 Tribune Content Agency.

(8) comments

collinsm65

As a lifelong democrat and hunter, the dems better realize there are a lot of us who don't like Beto's "hell yeah, we're coming after your guns" attitude. There are a lot of us and we vote too.

seanjames

you use an AR-15 to hunt? you must be spectacularly bad at hunting. maybe try knitting

Alice Jones

Sean - awesome reply. Well done.

DickD

I agree, anyone needing a semi automatic or automatic gun should not be hunting. And I have hunted for years, in New York, West Virginia and Maryland,

gabrielshorn2013

Dick, dick, dick, again? You already know that you cannot use an automatic for hunting anywhere in the country, so why do you continually bring it up? As for the semi-auto, one pull of the trigger, one shot. The same as any other hunting rifle. All it does is reload for the hunter, nothing else. It allows you to keep the target acquired, resulting in higher accuracy. Isn't that a benefit? Many disabled hunters use semi-autos for deer and waterfowl hunting.

veritas

Dems won’t stop at AR-15 type rifles. They want to come for all guns. Just like they pivoted from Obama Care to Medicare For All. Just like they went from abortions being legal, safe and rare, to abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy. Just like they moved and continue to move the goal posts from secure borders to open borders, free health care , drivers licenses and voting rights for illegal aliens.

jloo

The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting. It has to do specifically with self defense. An AR15 is an excellent weapon the just that purpose.

gabrielshorn2013

Why? I guess you don't know much about modern sporting rifles like the AR platform. One pull of the trigger yields one shot, same as any other firearm. Just because a firearm is capable of handling a 30 round magazine doesn't mean you have to use one. Ten round magazines with five cartridges are sufficient, the same as most other hunting rifles. As for accuracy, the AR is one of the most accurate platforms straight out of the box, so yes, it would be a good choice for hunting. However, the 5.56 mm round is a little light for a deer. the .308 round is a very popular deer cartridge, and may be fired from the AR-10.

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