The top two elected officials in Virginia appeared together in public for the first time in more than five months as officials the commonwealth continued to deal with the fallout from Friday’s deadly mass shooting in Virginia Beach. Despite their recent and very public differences, Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax seemed unified when they announced plans for gun control during a special session of the General Assembly in the capital city of Richmond on Tuesday morning.
“It’s time for decisive action,” Northam said. “Let Virginia show the nation that we can respond to tragedy with decisive action.”
Northam and Fairfax have been making the rounds in Virginia Beach in the days after city worker DeWayne Craddock killed at least 12 people during a rampage in a municipal building on Friday afternoon. But Tuesday was the first time responded to the shooting together.
The Washington Post reported that the “Republican response was cool,” which suggested conservative politicians in the state may not be as eager for tighter gun laws as their Democratic counterparts, an indication that a legislative fight may be looming.
Despite the gravity of the situation, the appearance of Northam with Fairfax was hard to ignore. The two had reportedly fallen out after it was revealed on the first day of Black History Month that Northam’s medical school yearbook page contained photos of people in blackface. However, a recent report conveniently couldn’t decide whether Northam was actually one of the people in the picture.
Fairfax, in turn, was all but ready to assume the governorship when it was widely expected that Northam would resign in shame. Instead, two women ultimately came forward to accuse Fairfax of sexual assault from their respective college days more than a decade ago. One of the women said Fairfax raped her. Fairfax has been steadfast in his denials of the allegations, questioning the timing of them. The women said they came forward because they didn’t want to see a person they described as a sexual predator become governor.
But on Tuesday, it appeared the governor and his lieutenant put aside their differences in the name of gun control, a common refrain in the wake of the repeated senseless gun violence plaguing the country. Only time will tell if this time around will be different.
Attorney General Mark Herring, who was also dealing with his own blackface photo controversy, joined Northam and Fairfax. Watch their full comments below.