A Virginia state senate committee voted on Monday to delay a bill that would have banned the sale of certain semi-automatic weapons, in a significant setback for gun-control measures pushed by Governor Ralph Northam.
Four moderate Democrats joined Republicans on the State Judiciary Committee to delay the bill for one year, while the state’s crime commission will study the issue. Gun-rights advocates who had packed the spectator’s area of the committee room cheered the vote.
The bill in question, known as HB961, would have banned the sale of semi-automatic rifles it considered “assault weapons,” including the popular AR-15 rifle, as well as the possession of magazines with a capacity over 12 rounds. Previous attempts to enact an “assault weapons” ban have also failed to clear the State Judiciary Committee.
Virginia’s House of Delegates passed HB961 by a vote of 51-48 on Tuesday. The legislation formed a central part of Governor Northam’s agenda, which includes stricter gun control and easing access to abortion in the state.
Northam’s legislative push comes after Democrats took control of both chambers of the Virginia legislature for the first time since 1994. Democratic lawmakers have introduced so many bills that congressional sessions have often extended late into the night to process the backlog, while some lawmakers have struggled with procedural issues after being shut out of power for decades.
The gun-control push has galvanized gun rights advocates, who have turned out en masse at the Virginia Capitol to protest Northam’s legislation.