The irony and temerity could be funny if the topic weren’t so gravely important.
Legislators traveled to Richmond and convened on Tuesday morning for the special session Gov. Ralph Northam had called to address gun violence in the state. Their backsides hadn’t warmed their chairs before they arose and departed, passing a Republican-schemed plan to adjourn, to hand off proposed legislation to the state crime commission and to delay any real focus on gun issues until after November’s election.
Gov. Northam had called the special session following the mass murder of 12 in Virginia Beach on May 31, and the abrupt adjournment on Tuesday brought to mind the words from members of our legislative delegation in describing how they had viewed this important session. Maybe you remember them, too:
» State Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin): “… to me it seems that Gov. Northam’s calling of this special session is more about politics than having an earnest discussion about what should be good public policy decisions to prevent these senseless shootings from happening, like the one that just occurred in Virginia Beach.”
» State Del. Danny Marshall (R-Danville): “Are we going there to get something done, or are we going there for the governor to rebuild his brand?”
Well, Del. Marshall, the answer was neither, and we think your comment, given how this was an admittedly orchestrated strategy by your party, is more than a little disingenuous.
Still we understand politics. We understand that every seat in the General Assembly is up for election this year. We understand that gun rights and gun safety form about as hair-trigger an issue as there is for any lawmaker.
Sure, putting off consideration of any legislation — and dozens of bills were filed for consideration during the special session — buys time for candidates to be able to rely on studies by state agencies rather than their own character.
But it also buys time for someone to take up an assault weapon purchased at a gun show, to load high-capacity magazines with the deadliest of ammunition and to fire away at innocent people simply going about their lives. How many dozens of times does that happen every year? It will happen again before November. Somewhere.
Lawmakers also bought time after the massacre of 32 at Virginia Tech — the clock says 12 years and still buying — and little has changed except the world has become less safe and our leaders have become more timid and inept.
So if we are buying time, when do we purchase the day, hour, minute or second when a true leader steps forward and displays the moral courage required to do the right thing and not the politically prudent thing?
What we had on Tuesday was a special session that was special once again for all the wrong reasons. Legislators were summoned to Richmond to consider ideas and implement plans to make our commonwealth and our nation safer for all of us.
Oddly the legislators stood to honor those who died in Virginia Beach. Sadly, they didn’t stand for anything after that.
They say they plan to return in mid-November for a new session to consider these issues anew.
We have another idea: Maybe they should leave Richmond and not return at all.
Yes, maybe we should remember their words and their inaction on Nov. 5.
The Martinsville Bulletin