Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Virginia lawmakers dealt a setback to Gov. Ralph Northam and the state's gun control advocates Monday, voting to defer a proposed ban on sales of assault weapons.
The proposal was part of a package of gun control measures sought by Northam and fiercely opposed by gun rights supporters. It would have banned the sales of some semiautomatic weapons as well as the possession of magazines with more than 12 rounds.
But with the backing of four Democratic legislators, the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-5 to defer a final decision until next year, calling instead for the state's crime commission to study the issue.
Northam introduced the measure in response to a shooting last year at a Virginia Beach, Va., municipal building in which 12 people were killed. Republicans' refusal to consider the bills in a special session last summer was a catalyst for a Democratic victory in November when the party flipped the state House and Senate for the first time in decades.
Gun rights advocates, however, staged a display of support last month with a rally that attracted thousands of supporters -- some brandishing the types of automatic weapons targeted in the bill -- in the streets around the Virginia capitol in Richmond.
The Democrats' momentum on the gun control issue was at least temporarily derailed with Monday's committee vote.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League sent a congratulatory statement to its members, saying, "Next year, the battle will continue, but if we fight like we did this year, vote in every election, and support pro-gun candidates, we will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. We dare not get complacent again."
Northam also promised the vote was not the end of his administration's effort.
"While the governor is disappointed in today's vote, he fully expects the crime commission to give this measure the detailed review that senators called for. We will be back next year," spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky said.