Lawmakers are about to return to Richmond for a special session focused on guns, a move prompted by the recent mass shooting in Virginia Beach.
The National Rifle Association shooting range is tucked away in a leafy suburban corner of Fairfax County just outside the Beltway. It’s an area represented by Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw and Democratic Delegate Mark Keam, not exactly friendly lawmakers to the NRA’s cause.
One of the potential reforms they’ll consider in the upcoming special session is a ban on silencers. The NRA calls them suppressors. “We use suppressor because we feel like it better captures what the device actually does,” says Josh Savani, director of research and information at the NRA.
“It reduces it to a level that doesn’t necessarily damage your hearing.” To make the point, he offered a demonstration at the NRA gun range. First they fired the type of pistol used in the Virginia Beach shooting without a silencer, then fired it with a silencer. There was a marked difference, but it certainly wasn't silent.
Silencers or suppressors of mufflers, whatever you want to call them, Savani says they’re important hardware in more urban areas like Fairfax County. “So shooting ranges can operate in a way that’s more neighborly, and they can cause less disturbance.”
Democrats want disturbance. They want universal background checks. They want a law allowing judges to confiscate weapons of people who raise red flags. They want to ban assault style weapons.
The NRA opposes all of that.
“We need to look at real solutions, and not these opportunistic gun grabs we’re seeing from Governor Northam,” says Catherine Mortensen. She does communications for the NRA.
I asked her if there was any kind of reform the NRA would like to see come out of July's special session.
“No I can’t really speak to what we are asking for. All I know is we are standing firm to protect the gun rights of law-abiding Virginians,” Mortensen says.
A written statement issued later says the NRA’s only agenda for the upcoming special session is to "protect the Second Amendment." Democrats are eager to hit the campaign trail and press the issue. Here’s Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw on what he would do if he became majority leader. “I think we can finally get through some of these bills to bring some sense to our gun laws, which right now you can get a gun in Virginia if you can fog up a mirror.”
One effort that is receiving some Republican support is a bill offered by Republican Delegate David Yancey of Newport News, the delegate whose last reelection was so tight they had to draw a name out of a bowl. He wants to allow judges to cut sentences for defendants who share information about gun runners and drug smugglers.
On Monday, we’ll hear from the Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.