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Virginia Special Session on Guns Begins, Surprise Ban from GOP Leader

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia lawmakers are set to debate and vote on whether new gun laws are needed after a gunman killed a dozen people a little more than a month ago.

Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered lawmakers to return to the Capitol Tuesday and called on them to pass a wide range of gun-control measures. The governor, a Democrat, called for "votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers" after a Virginia Beach city employee shot and killed his coworkers at a municipal building on May 31

Republican leaders who control the legislature have signaled they are unlikely to pass Northam's proposed legislation but will instead focus on increasing criminal penalties related to gun crimes. GOP lawmakers have criticized the governor as an opportunist trying to exploit a tragedy for political gain.

Surprise Ban From GOP Leader

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Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A top Virginia Republican is calling for a broad ban on guns in government buildings a day before state lawmakers convene a special session on gun laws.

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment filed legislation Monday that would extend a state prohibition on guns in courthouses to any "building owned or used by a locality for governmental purposes." It would also increase the penalty for breaking the law from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The bill comes as a surprise, as Republicans have historically blocked gun-control measures. The National Rifle Association immediately panned the measure as unfair to law-abiding gun owners.

A mass workplace shooting in Virginia Beach by a city employee a little more than a month ago prompted the special legislative session on gun laws that starts Tuesday.

Don Rush is the News Director at Delmarva Public Media. An award-winning journalist, Don reports major local issues of the day, from sea level rise, to urban development, to the changing demographics of Delmarva.