Political Operatives Say Response to Virginia Beach Shooting Strikes a Familiar Tone

Jun 3, 2019

Victims' names cover part of a flower vase at a makeshift memorial for victims of a mass shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach.
Credit AP Photo / Patrick Semansky

The shooting in Virginia Beach over the weekend is prompting a familiar discussion about firearms and whether new restrictions are needed.

It’s been a dozen years since the shooting at Virginia Tech, when a student killed 32 people. But after last weekend’s shooting in Virginia Beach, the politics feels familiar: Republicans are calling for thoughts and prayers while Democrats are calling for gun control.

Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett says Democrats run the risk of sounding too extreme too close to a tragedy.

“I think when you get into the thing about particular types of guns it sounds like you are trying to take people’s guns away, and half of the population just stops listening,” he explains.

Republican strategist Dan Scandling says Republicans aren’t feeling much heat to do much of anything on the gun issue.

“I don’t think it hurt them after Virginia Tech, sadly," says Scandling. "So I think that’s where they’re going to default to, and I think you’re going to hear Republicans come back and say the weapons that were used were purchased legally.”

Scandling says one issue where there might be some room to maneuver is laws surrounding high-capacity magazines, like the kind used in the Virginia Beach shooting. But, he adds, it’s too soon to see if there could be any movement on that issue.

Some community members challenged state lawmakers to implement gun control policies.

A crowd gathered Monday outside Senator Tommy Norment’s office in Williamsburg. Norment is the Republican majority leader in the state senate. He represents parts of Eastern Virginia.

According to reporter Steve Roberts Jr. with the Virginia Gazette, Norment stepped out and talked to protestors; standing in the crowd and listening to their pleas for more gun control.

Norment, along with other Republicans in a key senate committee, blocked a host of gun control measures this most recent legislative session.

He, and all state lawmakers, are up for re-election in November.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.