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VB Tragedy Fund tax deduction bill among legislation at General Assembly special session

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — On Tuesday, the much anticipated General Assembly special session on gun violence and gun control will get underway in Richmond.

Governor Ralph Northam has unveiled a very detailed plan on how it should go, but the question is: will it go as scripted? Will there be any meaningful progress in reasonable gun control?

Some Democrats have told 10 On Your Side they doubt meaningful legislation will take place because it is an election season. Republicans that control the General Assembly are usually supported by the NRA, and the thought is there isn’t the political stomach to upset a powerful lobby group four months before a vitally important election.  

One bill that will absolutely get through the special session is one for all funds donated to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund be tax deductible. They currently are not. That bill submitted by Republican State Senator Bill DeSteph (R) Virginia Beach. 

“The United Way being a non-profit the Tragedy Fund would become tax free for contributions,” DeSteph said. We are told U.S. senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are working on this issue on the federal level. 

DeSteph also wants a joint health care study on what causes people to commit mass shootings. “We want to know what flips the switch,” he said.

Democratic Governor Ralph Northam will propose an “Extreme Risk Protective Order.”

“Any violation of a protective order will stiffen a penalty if a weapon were used in a threatening manner,” DeSteph said about the proposal.

DeSteph wants to increase mandatory minimum sentences for brandishing a firearm in the commission of a felony. “Or you are using it in a threatening manner to force or intimidate someone of being shot or being injured.”

Northam wants universal background checks on all firearms and transactions, even for private sales, “Should it be mandatory? I am not convinced of that right now, but we will have the discussion on that and have the debate,” DeSteph said.

Northam wants to reinstate one-gun-a-month law, which Republicans will likely oppose. “Should you be able to purchase only one gun a month? I don’t think it matters one way or another. It will not deter something like this in Virginia Beach from happening,” DeSteph says. 

The governor wants a ban on assault weapons, high capacity magazines,  bump stocks and silencers. DeSteph thinks those all are already covered. “The only thing I have heard is Governor Northam talking about banning bump stocks, which are already banned. High capacity magazines, which are banned in Virginia Beach, and the silencers that already banned on a weapon in Virginia Beach,” DeSteph added.  

Northam wants lost and stolen firearms reported within 24 hours. DeSteph submitted a bill on that issue too. “If you knowingly distribute, sell, or attempt to sell, or possess a stolen weapon knowingly this gives you a class five felony.”

The governor wants to enable localities to regulate firearms in government buildings. DeSteph says, “I personally think they should. I personally think the only way to stop an active shooter is with a gun.”

Northam’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran is prepared for an NRA push back against the governor. “There’s a number of scenarios these bills [Governor Northam’s bills] try to address.  They don’t violate anybody’s Second Amendment Rights. They are constitutional and are reasonable.”

Democratic Delegate Joe Lindsey (D-Norfolk) is not optimistic the session will produce meaningful legislation. “I would love to see some measures come to the floor, but I fully expect that they’re going to go to committee and there’s going to be a ‘kill’ order on any piece of gun legislation we try to advance.”

DeSteph also told us, “I don’t see how this is a gun control issue. It is a mental health issue. If they aren’t going to use a gun, they will stab someone with a knife.” Moran adds, “None of these provisions will stop every incident. We are trying to reduce the number of lives lost to gun violence.  Lindsey weights in too, “I’d like to think that with the polls saying that voters want sensible gun legislation, that there are going to be some people courageous enough to support that argument being advanced before the floor, considered on both sides, and voted up or down.”

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