Virginia assault weapon ban fails after moderate Democrats break with party to reject it

Virginia’s effort to ban the sale of assault weapons was rejected by state lawmakers, including four Democrats who joined Republicans in voting down the measure.

Senators voted 10-5 in a committee on Monday to shelf the bill, which aimed to prohibit the sale of certain semiautomatic firearms and the possession of magazines that hold more than 12 rounds for a year so that the state crime commission can study the issue. Four moderate Democrats broke party lines to join Republicans in voting against the legislation.

The rejection comes as a loss to Gov. Ralph Northam, who had championed the bill and has made reducing gun violence in the state a top priority. As part of a broad package of gun control measures, Senate Democrats passed three gun control bills that would restrict monthly gun purchases, expand background checks on firearms, and allow localities to ban guns in designated areas in January.

Virginia has thus become a heated epicenter of the nation’s debate over guns. While Northam’s calls have received support from those looking to end gun violence, gun rights activists have accused him of trying to infringe upon their Second Amendment rights. Tens of thousands marched in Richmond last month to protest the bevy of legislation, and more than 80 Virginia counties have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries.”