- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2017

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam vowed Friday to push for tighter gun laws in Virginia following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and 489 injured.

Mr. Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, said he wants to expand background checks and supports a ban on the sale of high capacity magazines, assault weapons and “bump stocks” in the Old Dominion.

“I’ve seen the damage automatic weapons can do to a human body, and let me tell you — they’re restricted for a reason,” Mr. Northam said in a statement, alluding to the time he spent a U.S. Army doctor in Operation Desert Storm. “Bump stocks and high capacity magazines have no place in civil society, nor do assault weapons.”

“As governor, I’ll propose legislation to ban them, and to enhance our background check system to make sure guns don’t get into the wrong hands,” he said. “Until I do not have a breath left in my lungs, I’ll stand up for the safety and security of all Virginians.”

The deadly shooting in Las Vegas has reignited the debate over guns.

After years of disagreement on Capitol Hill, it appears this time that Democrats and Republicans could find some common ground over the sale of “bump stocks,” which the shooter used to turn his semi-automatic rifles into rapid-fire weapons similar to machine guns.

On Thursday, President Trump and the National Rifle Association signaled they are open to a ban on the devices.

It remains to be seen, however, how big of an appetite there is for additional gun laws in Virginia, where Democrats historically have tiptoed around the issue of guns — fearful that they could turn off rural voters for whom hunting and gun ownership is a big part of their culture.

But the state’s shifting demographics has changed the political landscape, and it is clear that Mr. Northam believes the issue could help energize his base of support in his race against Republican Ed Gillespie — particularly in the more urban areas in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads, where voters are more open to gun restrictions.

The NRA has endorsed Mr. Gillespie.

Voters will elect their a new governor next month.

Mr. Northam, who is leading in recent polls, also planned on Friday to hold a press conference with retired NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, the husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who suffers from brain damage from a 2011 assignation attempt.

Mr. Kelly co-founded the Americans for Responsible Solutions political action committee, which is seeking to elect officials willing to stand up against the gun lobby.

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