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VA lawmakers pass 7 new gun control bills in 90 minutes

Gun rights protestors gather under the Virginia State Capitol for a rally in support of Second Amendment rights on January 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va. (Rob Ostermaier/Virginian Pilot/TNS)
January 31, 2020

A series of new gun control bills in Virginia cleared key votes on Thursday, including expanded background checks and “red flag” protective orders, among other measures.

In total, seven new gun control bills passed in the Virginia House of Delegates, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Virginia Senate has passed their own versions of several of those same bills and the two chambers are expected to reconcile the individual differences of the bills before sending them to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam to sign and enact.

Democratic lawmakers, exercising their newly won legislative majorities, pushed through all seven measures in under 90 minutes. The votes came just over a week after an estimated 22,000 gun rights activists protested in Richmond in opposition to the newly proposed gun laws.

According to the Washington Post, lawmakers voted on party lines to pass measures that would:

  • Extend background checks to currently exempted private gun sales.
  • Require gun owners to report the loss of a firearm within 24 hours.
  • Create an extreme risk protective order, also known as a “red flag” order, which allows law enforcement to temporarily seize firearms from otherwise lawful owners accused of presenting a risk of harm to themselves or others.
  • Return to a pre-2012 policy, limiting the number of handguns allowed for an individual to purchase to one per month.
  • Increase the restrictions barring a person to access a firearm while subject to a protective order.
  • Extend the power to local governments to create additional gun control measures on the community level.
  • Make it a felony to leave a firearm accessible to anyone under the age of 18, up from the current age of 14.

Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) argued that the new age restrictions on firearms access would punish gun owners who allow their children to use their firearms for hunting purposes.

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The measure allowing localities to pass their own firearms legislation reportedly caused some confusion as well, as Del. Nick Rush (R-Montgomery) pointed out that many localities have actually adopted second amendment “sanctuary” resolutions urging local law enforcement not to enforce new gun control measures. A full 91 of Virginia’s 95 counties have adopted such sanctuary measures.

The bill’s sponsor, Del. Marcia S. “Cia” Price (D-Newport News), argued that the measure is meant to permit communities to add their own gun control measures in addition to ones passed at the state level, but that they may also choose not to add their own community-level measures.

Other proposed gun control measures favored by Northam have not yet been able to proceed through the legislature as quickly. A proposed “assault weapons” ban has seen delays in both the Virginia House and the Senate, where lawmakers have expressed a lack of clarity over how to define “assault weapons” and how to implement such a ban.

The talk of an “assault weapons” ban has caused much anxiety throughout the state, feeding into the sanctuary movement, and seeing some lawmakers suggest Northam should call on the National Guard to carry out the law’s enforcement.