Virginia lawmakers handed a victory to gun-rights activists Monday, killing a key part of Gov. Ralph Northam's (D) gun-control agenda. The State Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the bill, which would have banned the sale of assault-style weapons and possession of high-capacity magazines, and handed the legislation over to the Virginia Crime Commission to be studied, saying "there were too many questions about the definition of assault weapon," The Washington Post reports.
Surprisingly, four of Northam's fellow Democrats sided with Republicans on the decision. As The Associated Press reports, "Virginia is the current epicenter of the country's heated debate over guns," especially as Democrats last year flipped the General Assembly blue for the first time in more than 20 years. Northam campaigned hard for increased gun control, and this bill was one of eight in a package he rolled out after a shooter killed 12 people in Virginia Beach last year.
Still, opposition to the proposed assault weapon ban has been fierce, with gun-rights activists numbering in the tens of thousands protesting at the state Capitol last month and "Second Amendment sanctuaries" popping up all over the state.
"Moderate Democrats in the state Senate have said for weeks they are uncomfortable passing legislation that would affect so many current gun owners," AP reports. Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D) called the Democrats who sided with Republicans on the bill a "bunch of wimps." Northam's spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said "We will be back next year."