The irony 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. Charles Poindexter (R-Franklin County): “It’s just a divisive move in an election year.”
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, on an admittedly orchestrated strategy by your party, is more than a little disingenuous.
Still we understand politics. We understand every seat in the General Assembly is up for election. We understand gun rights and gun safety form 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, to load high-capacity magazines with the deadliest of ammunition and to fire at innocent people. 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 courage to do the right thing and not the politically prudent thing?
Maybe the problem here is that such an instant already has been bought and hushed, like a tabloid purchasing an expose on a lust-ridden public figure paying off a woman for her silence. Maybe potentially good and righteous leaders have been silenced just the same.
What we had Tuesday was a special session that was special for all the wrong reasons. Legislators were summoned to consider ideas and implement plans to make our commonwealth safer.
Oddly the legislators stood to honor those who died in Virginia Beach. Sadly, they didn’t stand for anything after that.
Instead they voted to leave Richmond without doing anything, protecting (their reputations rather than taking action.
They say they plan to return in mid-November to consider these issues anew.
We have another idea: Maybe they should leave and not return at all.
Yes, maybe we should remember their words and their inaction on Nov. 5.
Del. Poindexter: “Generally, not much comes from special sessions. [This time] maybe something will happen, or maybe it won’t.”
Sadly, he already knew what was going to happen. Politics.