Virginia Democrats’ push to outlaw semiautomatic “assault” rifles was halted for the time being Monday when four moderates in the state Senate voted in committee with Republicans to put proposed legislation on hold, several media outlets reported.
The vote in the Senate Judiciary committee tabled a bill that would have banned rifles such as the popular AR-15 and magazines with more than 12 rounds, delaying consideration for a year and asking the state crime commission to study the issue.
The measure was a top priority of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who openly backed the bill and whose spokesman said the initiative is not dead.
Cheers erupt as the Virginia Senate votes down an assault weapons ban and magazine confiscation bill: pic.twitter.com/gmu48Mo0ns
— The First (@TheFirstonTV) February 17, 2020
The Virginia committee voted 10-5 to defer consideration of the bill, the Washington Post reported.
“Bunch of wimps,” Democratic Sen. L. Louise Lucas said from the dais, referring to the four Democrats who crossed party lines to help forestall the bill’s passage.
The semiautomatic weapons ban was part of a series of gun-control measures introduced by Democrats and supported by Northam.
Senate Democrats in January passed three gun control bills that would restrict monthly gun purchases, expand background checks on firearms and allow municipalities to ban guns in designated areas.
A grassroots uprising in Virginia
The pro-gun control push followed Democrats’ taking control of the General Assembly in January for the first time in two decades. In response to Democrat-led gun control proposals, 80 counties in the state have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries,” a reference to “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigrants.
Additionally, tens of thousands of gun-rights supporters descended upon the Virginia capital of Richmond last month to protest the numerous bills that would restrict the ownership, possession and sale of firearms.
The semiautomatic weapons ban was tabled with little debate on Monday, with one of the Democratic senators who voted against the bill saying it lacked clarity.
“There are obviously a lot of questions about definitions in this bill,” Sen. Creigh Deeds said. “Definitions do matter.”
The bill was the third of Northam’s eight gun-control proposals that have been rejected in the Senate.
Moderate Democrats joined Republicans to reject one proposal that would have made it a felony to “recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm” that would have endangered a minor and another that would have required gun owners to report the loss or theft of a gun to police.
Virginia lawmakers have rejected the assault weapon ban that Gov. Northam had pushed.
Moderate Dems broke away from party lines to vote against it.
No doubt that this is thanks to the thousands of peaceful demonstrators that came out to make their voices heard. pic.twitter.com/lwryFi7oLG
— Courtney Holland ?? (@hollandcourtney) February 17, 2020
The Judiciary Committee vote was met with cheers from gun-rights advocates who packed the committee room and by conservatives on Twitter with glee.
- Pro-gun protesters gather outside the state capitol building in Richmond, Virginia, on Jan. 20, 2020.: Screen grab