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Virginia Senate blocks assault weapons sale ban Northam had promised

Virginia lawmakers blocked a ban on sales of assault weapons as part of a package of gun control measures that Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam had promised and gun owners have fought fiercely to defeat.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Monday to hit pause on the House bill that would ban the sales of some semiautomatic firearms and ban the possession of magazines with more than 12 rounds. 

With four moderate Democrats joining Republicans, the committee voted to defer a vote until 2021 and asked the state crime commission to study the issue.

The bill’s temporary defeat is a blow to Northam’s and Democrats’ policy agenda, which has featured a slew of liberal measures passing both legislative houses.

The national gun debate has centered on Virginia after Democrats won control of both houses in November and Northam, embroiled in scandal a year ago over a yearbook photo showing blackface, remained in office.

Gun rights advocates and militia members gather in Virginia's capitol to protest potential gun control bills.

Democrats argued that the ban and other gun control measures would make Virginians safer. He also worked to dispel myths that he would call on state authorities to confiscate firearms.

However, the assault weapon sales ban drew the strongest pushback from Repulicans and groups of gun owners who saw it as an affront to the Second Amendment. 

Just weeks after the newly-elected General Assembly took office, a rally of thousands of gun supporters gathered in Richmond to show their opposition to the bills. Many openly carried assault style weapons as alleged threats of violence prompted Northam to declare a state of emergency and ban weapons of the state capitol’s grounds. The rally was peaceful and went on without incident. 

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