Top Virginia Republican condemns mass shootings a month after blocking gun safety bill


Republicans in Virginia are 'gonna get annihilated' in November's election for their lack of action on gun violence, Trump's former campaign chair said.

Virginia Republican leader Kirk Cox, who serves as speaker in the state’s House of Delegates, condemned this weekend's mass shootings less than a month after refusing to pass any gun safety measures in his own state.

"This weekend a pair of evil men committed evil acts of violence against innocent people living innocent lives," Cox said in a statement. "I strongly and unequivocally condemn terrorism based on the twisted ideology of white supremacy."

Yet, a few weeks ago, Cox had the ability to actually do something about gun violence in Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam called a special legislative session to deal with gun violence after a dozen people were murdered in a mass shooting in Virginia Beach.

The July 9 special session lasted all of 90 minutes before Cox adjourned and left town without addressing the issue at all, unwilling to take up any measures before the state's November 2019 elections.

In light of the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Cox's decision has received bipartisan condemnation.

"Virginia Republicans refuse to admit that we have an epidemic of gun violence in our Commonwealth and across the country, and they consistently fail to back up their 'thoughts and prayers' with votes and laws," Trevor Southerland, executive director of the Virginia House Democrats, told Shareblue Media. "Unfortunately, House Republicans have made it clear that Virginia will not enact solutions to gun violence while they hold the majority."

Trump's 2016 Virginia campaign chair John Fredericks seemed to agree with Southerland's assessment, predicting dire consequences because of Cox's inaction. "Here's my message to Republicans: If you don't do something here [on guns] you're gonna get annihilated in the suburbs in 2019," he said on his Aug. 6 radio program. Fredericks forecasted that Republicans would lose their slim majority in both the state House and state Senate, and "that's the end of the Republicans in Virginia for a generation."

Cox faces a particularly difficult election, even though he holds the position of speaker. Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that the previous election map was illegally gerrymandered by race and forced new maps to be drawn. Cox's previous district leaned Republican by roughly 26 points, while his new district has a slight 6-point Democratic lean, according to the Washington Post. Several Republican delegates and state senators face a similar fate with districts that are no longer gerrymandered to their advantage.

Cox's refusal to confront gun safety could cause problems for him in his new district.

"Now that he's running in a district that’s one-third African American, he's trying to distance himself from the dangerous rhetoric that’s stoked white-supremacist violence," Matt Harringer, press secretary for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, told Shareblue. "His record is clear: He won't stand up to Trump and he won't pass gun safety legislation."

Republicans hold a slight 51-48 advantage in the House (with one vacancy) and all 140 seats are up for an election in November. The state's 40 Senate seats are also all up for grabs this year, where Republicans hold a 20-19 majority, also with one vacancy.

"As speaker, Kirk Cox has had ample opportunity to stand up against gun violence, but he never has," Gaby Goldstein, political director of the Sister District Project, told Shareblue Media. "According to Giffords Law Center, someone is killed with a gun every 9 hours in Virginia. Virginians deserve better leadership on this, and they're going to get it this year when Democrats flip both chambers of the state legislature, including Cox's seat."

Cox is willing to put out statements lamenting the deaths of innocent people but refuses to pass any legislation to stop another mass shooting from happening in his own state.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.