Ahead of what will likely be a contentious legislative session on gun laws, Democratic leaders in Virginia rallied during a church service Sunday to call for action on the matter.
“We have a problem here in the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Ralph Northam. “We have an emergency.”
Northam joined Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring and other Democratic officials at the 31st Street Baptist Church in Richmond, in an effort to drum up support for a likely contentious session scheduled for Tuesday.
In calling for tougher gun laws, Northam talked about his time as a U.S. Army doctor.
“I took care of wounded soldiers,” Northam said. “We do not need weapons of war on our streets.”
Northam also mentioned a 9-year-old girl who was shot and killed in late May as she played in a Richmond park.
“This is common sense,” he said, of the proposed legislation.
Northam is bringing several gun control measures to the table, including a ban on silencers and high-capacity magazines.
The governor said he wants mandatory, universal background checks before gun purchases; a limit of one handgun purchase per month; and a “red flag” law that would allow authorities to seize weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves, or others.
“How much more should we tolerate,” asked Del. Delores McQuinn, the organizer of the church rally. “We can do something, and I’m calling on my colleagues to take common sense efforts to address this.”
Gun control bills usually fail in Republican-controlled committees, with only a few legislators voting. Northam has pressured Republicans to, at the very leas, allow a full floor vote on the proposed measures.
Northam called the special session shortly after a Virginia Beach city employee opened fire on his coworkers at a municipal building on May 31, killing 12 people.
Republicans have criticized Northam, who stands politically weakened in the wake of a racist yearbook photo scandal earlier this year, as an opportunist trying to exploit a tragedy for political gain.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.