Virginia Democrats shattered 20 years of Republican leadership, including gun measures

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RICHMOND — Virginia Democrats nearly completed their reshaping of state government on Saturday, wrapping up most of a historic General Assembly session in which they shattered 20 years of Republican leadership on social and environmental issues.

Swept by elections last fall to their first consolidated hold on power in a generation, Democrats unleashed a cyclone of pent-up legislative change. On Saturday, lawmakers completed action on measures to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, give undocumented immigrants a way to drive legally and repeal the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls.

Other big-ticket items went unresolved by early evening, including bills that would decriminalize marijuana, legalize casino gambling in five cities, give localities the authority to remove Confederate statues and raise the state’s minimum wage. In some cases conference committees were hashing out differences between House and Senate versions; in others, bills were caught up in procedural spats.

The showdown didn’t affect action on gun violence prevention, which was the session’s marquee issue from start to finish. On Saturday, bills restricting handgun purchases to one per month and expanding background checks cleared the legislature and headed to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for his signature.

They were the last of seven gun-control measures advocated by Northam that passed the legislature after years of such bills being quashed by Republican majorities. An eighth part of Northam’s package — a ban on assault weapons — cleared the House but never made it through the Senate.

Virginia Democrats Record Number of Gun Grabbing Bills

A record number of bills introduced this year led to complaints from Republicans that new leadership was trampling on parliamentary customs in a rush to shake things up.

The scope of change caused backlash. Thousands of gun rights advocates from around the country protested in Richmond in January, some making threats that drew a massive police response. Democrats banned guns in the Capitol, and residents of rural areas complained that their way of life was under attack.

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