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NRA Pushes Back on Northam Gun Proposals at Virginia Beach Town Hall

NRA members at a town hall in Virginia Beach. (Photo: NRA)
NRA members at a town hall in Virginia Beach. (Photo: NRA)

The NRA held a town hall in Virginia Beach on Tuesday, about a month after a mass shooting there. Politicians and NRA members discussed Gov. Ralph Northam’s call for a special legislative session devoted to gun control.

The meeting, which was closed to the press, also drew a small group of protestors and inspired a seperate, pro-gun control roundtable nearby. 

NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen said Governor Northam’s special session is a political stunt to distract from his own political scandals.

“These are simply gun control laws that would make it harder for law-abiding Virginias to protect and defend themselves but would not prevent criminals from getting access to them,” Mortensen said.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a statewide gun rights group, said Northam’s proposals, such as universal background checks, are not effective at preventing mass shootings. 

“It would have done nothing if you think about the crime in Virginia Beach,” Van Cleave said.  

“The guy bought two guns through a dealer so he went through background checks.”

Gun-control advocate Carolyn Lindsey stood outside of the hotel where the meeting was held, donning a sign that said “No More Guns.” Lindsey’s niece was shot and killed in Chicago the same week as the Virginia Beach shooting.

“Gun violence is affecting more and more families and it could affect theirs too,” Lindsey said.

Republican Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach), who made an appearance at the meeting, said he would propose legislation related to mental health rather than guns when the General Assembly meets for a special session next week.

“We're going to work with communities across the country that have had a similar situation and see what is the catalyst that flips that switch on an otherwise sane individual to make them do something like this,” DeSteph said.

DeSteph's Democratic opponent in November’s election, Missy Cotter Smasal, held her own roundtable discussion nearby focusing on gun control measures she said were needed to prevent future tragedy.

“Bill DeSteph told his constituents it was too soon to take action, but has invited the NRA to our community less than a month after the shooting,” she said in a press release last week. 

Lawmakers will return to Richmond on July 9th to consider Democratic proposals, which include universal background checks, assault weapon bans and child access prevention measures. Republicans have proposed stiffer prison sentences to perpetrators of gun violence. 


VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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