By: Brenden Boudreau
With Gov. Ralph Northam’s gun control special session of the Virginia General Assembly a bust and in the rearview mirror, the question remains: What is next for gun rights in Virginia?
The Commonwealth is in the midst of political change as the population of Northern Virginia grows, mostly due to burgeoning size of the federal government, and so, too, does its influence, leaving rural Virginians wondering, “What happened to the birthplace of George Washington?”
The truth is that the Republican-controlled General Assembly finds itself in a difficult position, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a decision by a lower court that required new maps to be drawn for the House of Delegates.
Meanwhile, in the State Senate, there are five to six districts that are considered in play after statewide Republicans underperformed in these districts currently held by Republicans where Democrats now see an opening.
But legislative Republicans did themselves a huge favor by heeding the calls of pro-gun Virginians in not passing a single gun control measure during the special session called by Northam.
Of course, the results of the special session fired-up the outrage machine of the political left that is now promising full-out war on Republicans for not passing Northam’s politically charged gun control agenda.
But by not caving to Northam, Republicans managed not to alienate a sizable portion of their base leading up to the important fall general election. Giving proper credit where it is due, with few exceptions, their newfound courage on the Second Amendment can only be attributed to the tens of thousands of pro-gun Virginians who contacted their elected officials in the days leading up to the special session.
Had Republicans caved and passed a slew of gun control measures, it is likely many pro-gun Virginians would have stayed home instead of voting for the lesser of two evils.
Instead, legislative Republicans effectively punted the issue until after the general election by sending all of the gun control measures to the Virginia State Crime Commission, of which the legislature will consider their recommendations in a reconvened lame-duck special session on November 18.
That said, the likelihood of Republicans maintaining control of both chambers of the General Assembly is slim. Maintaining control over even one chamber, especially after the newly drawn maps for the House of Delegates favors Democrats, is even in question.
With the possibility of complete Democrat control of the General Assembly, in conjunction with Democrat Gov. Northam, it’s even more crucial for gun owners to be political active this fall.
While it is likely that Democrats will make an all-out push for gun control during the 2020 legislative session if they gain complete legislative control, it is not a foregone conclusion that they will be successful.
Many of the districts in both the House and Senate that Democrats are looking to pick up will be highly competitive, meaning whoever wins those seats will be on tenuous grounds on Day One of the new legislature.
Taking radical positions on gun control and voting for anti-gun measures could lead to a very early retirement from electoral politics come the next election cycle.
It is a well-known fact that politicians are constantly thinking about their reelection. While that may sound dirty or unethical, it is to the advantage of grassroots activists that they be concerned with getting reelected.
Politicians realizing that voting against gun rights could cost them politically means that they may not be as likely to do so if they want to keep their job as an elected official.
This is one of the reasons I am opposed to term limits. With term limits, as soon as politicians enter their last terms, they are no longer concerned with getting re-elected, which leaves them free to vote their conscience. I don’t want politicians voting their conscience; I want them voting right on my issue, and I want it to be crystal-clear to them that voting wrong could mean the end of their political career.
Thankfully, Virginia does not have term limits. Otherwise, things could have gotten much worse, much sooner.
Heading into this fall, gun rights advocates must remember that unless they are politically feared, they will not be politically respected.
Virginia is about to be Ground Zero in the War on Guns, and gun owners can ill-afford to blink.
What about the General Assembly reconvening on November 18?
Not to be lost in the adjourning of the July 9 special session and the upcoming general elections is the fact that the Virginia General Assembly is reconvening two weeks after the November 5 election.
In a joint letter drafted by Republican Speaker of the House Kirk Cox and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, the chairman and vice chairman of Virginia State Crime Commission (VSCC) are called to begin scheduling meetings “no later than August 23, 2019, to begin its work, and to make its final report to the General Assembly after November 12, 2019.”
The November 18 date is expected to be the day that the General Assembly will take up any recommendations presented by the Crime Commission.
The General Assembly is not required to pass anything recommended by the Commission, nor can the Commission pass any recommendation without majority support of the House and Senate members sitting on the Commission.
While it is being lauded by some as a slam-dunk that no gun control measures will be recommended by the VSCC, with Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment as a member, it is no sure thing.
After all, it was Norment who surprised his own caucus by filing a gun control measure the day before the special session started, resulting in the temporary resignation out of protest, by Sen. Bill Stanley as Senate Majority Whip.
Norment also has a long history of voting to advance many of the gun control proposals that Northam called on the General Assembly to pass.
If he goes rogue and bring one other Republican with him, it could lead to the VSCC making a recommendation for the General Assembly to pass gun control.
And with a lame-duck legislature where many politicians will not be facing the voters ever again, things could quickly get ugly on November 18, which means gun owners must remain vigilant after what is sure to be an exhausting lead-up to Election Day on November 5.
Brenden Boudreau is the Director of Field Operations for the National Association for Gun Rights, writing from Michigan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Disclosure: In addition to his work with the National Association for Gun Rights, the author is also Executive Director of Great Lakes Gun Rights.