Opinion: Do not expect any gun reform in the General Assembly this year

By Brandon Jarvis

It started months before the beginning of the 2019 session, the trend and rhetoric that implied Speaker Cox and GOP leadership would not entertain any talks to address gun violence. When Speaker Cox convened the select committee for school safety, he gave them one specific directive: stay away from guns. Last summer, Cox said his reasoning for steering the committee away from gun talks was because: “Once we go there, that’s all we’ll discuss.”

While I admit that I see the logic behind the directive, I do not agree with the tactic. I do believe that some very good recommendations came from the report filed by the select committee, but I also believe that burying your head in the sand to avoid the problem is just putting off the problem. Cox reaffirmed my analysis on Monday when he tweeted an article about Northam’s gun proposal from the conservative blog, ‘The Republican Standard’. In regards to the article, Cox said the Republicans in the House will “steadfastly fight to defend the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens from far-left gun control proposals this session.”

Democrats haven’t given up, releasing their own minority report from the select committee in december and holding a press conference on Monday pleading for more common sense gun initiatives. “Numbers are heartbreaking. I know this personally, having lost my own brother to gun violence,” said Delegate Murphy.

In their minority report released last month, Democrats disagreed with the select committee not considering any measures on gun control when making recommendations to the General Assembly, saying they “cannot ignore the role of firearms in mass school shootings”

During Monday’s press conference, Democrats again asked for universal background checks for gun purchases, a fine for owners who fail to report lost or stolen handguns (the only bill with a chance), and limiting gun purchases to one a month.

Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesperson for Cox responded to that press conference held by the Democrats: “With today’s announcement, it’s clear their group solely focused on ways to restrict Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and not practical solutions to protect our students and teachers in the classroom,” said Slaybaugh.

Republican leaders might realize that they will be in the minority in the 2020 session. The far-right is still pissed off about medicaid expansion. Now primary challenges are a serious fear among the more-moderate Republicans, including the leadership.

With the trend across the state becoming more blue each year, Republicans are trying to get through this session without allowing any type of gun reform. That way, next year they can just blame any gun reform legislation on the Democrats, who will likely have the majority in both chambers. Three Republican seats in Congress flipped blue in 2018, and Democrats swept the statewide elections in 2017, including the 15-seat-flip in the House of Delegates. It is reasonable for anyone, including Republicans, to believe they will be in the minority next year. It wouldn’t surprise me to see quite a few retirements from the right in the next few months, as elected officials scramble to keep their seats. But regardless of expectations for November, Republicans are sticking to their guns, by not talking about guns.