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Sweeping VA gun ban, likely confiscation without grandfather clause, proposed by state legislature

Wall of rifles at a gun store. (Michael Saechang/Flickr)
November 26, 2019

Virginia lawmakers are now considering a state law banning the ownership of certain semi-automatic guns deemed “assault firearms” and limiting the magazine capacity of other firearms in the state — and there are no clauses that would allow existing owners to continue possessing them.

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Virginia state Sen. Richard Saslaw introduced SB16, which would expand the definition of an “assault firearm” to cover many different semi-automatic rifles and pistols. The bill would call for the ban of such firearms, barring people from purchasing, possessing, selling or transferring those weapons.

Among the changes in firearm definitions, the bill would expand the term “assault firearm” to include semi-automatic centerfire rifles and pistols with a fixed magazine capacity greater than 10 rounds. The bill would also ban semi-automatic rifles and pistols with detachable magazines that also have folding and telescoping stocks, barrel shrouds, and thumbhole grips and second hand grips.

Rifles, under the new bill, would not be allowed pistol grips, bayonet mounts, grenade or flare launchers, silencers, muzzle breaks and flash suppressors.

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Virginians would not be allowed pistols that accept the magazine into the weapon at any other point than the pistol grip. Pistols would also have an unloaded weight limit of 50 ounces.

The bill also limits shotguns to a magazine capacity of no more than seven shells.

“The provisions of this act may result in a net increase in periods of imprisonment or commitment,” the bill says, indicating increased imprisonments as one likely outcome of its passage.

Sen. Saslaw did not respond to multiple requests for comment by American Military News.

In reaction to the newly proposed bill, the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) reported the bill would ban many commonly-owned firearms like the AR-15.

The NRA-ILA also noted the bill does not grandfather in existing owners of the firearms described. Current owners would reportedly have to give up their banned firearms or face a felony conviction. The gun advocacy group described the legislation as “clearly designed to be firearms confiscation.”

Along with the specific items listed to be banned, the law also prohibits “any characteristic of like kind.”

The gun advocacy group described the “like kind” language as “unacceptable vagueness” that would burden gun owners with guessing how courts may interpret the provision and potentially judge components on their firearms.

Violations of the law would constitute a Class 6 felony. According to Virginia law, such felonies may be punishable by up to five years in jail.

The NRA-ILA suggested the legislation is a result of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s heavy financial involvement in recent Virginia state elections.

Bloomberg, who officially confirmed his bid for U.S. president on Sunday, has listed gun control as a key component of his campaign platform.

Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety advocacy group spent some $2.5 million in the election, according to CNBC. The gun advocacy group greatly outspent the NRA’s own $300,000 it threw into the race.

The spending may have played a key roll in Democrats winning control of the legislature for the first time since 1994. The Democratic control of both the Virginia House and Senate along with Governor Ralph Northam may raise the likelihood the bill will pass.

In a statement by Everytown for Gun Safety following the Virginia elections, the organization touted 15 of its endorsed candidates won in the state.

“Everytown for Gun Safety and the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown, today celebrated the victory of 15 endorsed candidates in Virginia. The candidates were running in key districts against gun lobby-backed candidates in the NRA’s home state,” the Nov. 7 statement read.

This article has been updated to correct Gov. Northam’s status and add text from the bill on imprisonment.