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Virginia ‘assault weapons’ ban narrowly passes House; moves to Senate

Wall of rifles at a gun store. (Michael Saechang/Flickr)
February 12, 2020

The Virginia House passed an “assault weapons” ban bill in a narrow, 51-48 vote on Tuesday, moving the controversial legislation one step closer to being passed into law.

As expected, HB 961 passed the commonwealth’s House of Delegates, but is expected to face a tougher challenge in the Senate, where some Democrats oppose the measure. A similar piece of legislation had already failed to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee in January.

Three Democrats in the House of Delegates voted against HB 961, WHSV reported.

HB 961, which was introduced by Democrat Mark H. Levine, would ban “assault weapons,” suppressors, and magazines that hold more than 12 rounds. Additionally, the legislation would ban shotguns with magazines that hold more than seven rounds, which is a prohibition that applies currently in some localities in the commonwealth.

Breaking the law would be a class 6 felony, and violators could face up to five years in prison.

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“This legislation, just like other bills passed by the House this year, is intended to make Virginians safer every day,” House Democrats said in a statement posted on Twitter after the vote.

Republicans oppose the bill, saying it would infringe on the Constitutional right to bear arms.

“If you’ve ever said, ‘I’m for the Second Amendment,’ this bill will infringe on it,” Republican Delegate Nick Rush said on the House floor Tuesday.

If the Senate is able to pass its own version of the bill, it would easily be signed into law by Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, who has expressed support for the bill, as well as for other forms of strict gun-control measures.

Northam has even gone so far as to suggest sending in the National Guard to enforce gun laws, which has citizens concerned that it could lead to a violent outbreak.

“Any legislation that requires Virginians to surrender or destroy their lawfully possessed firearms or standard-issue magazines is tantamount to confiscation and a gross violation of our constitutional rights. Governor Northam and House Democrats are still going after law-abiding citizens with these policies, and Virginians who merely own the most common types of firearms and accessories would be made to be felons and subject to prison,” said House Republican Leader Rep. Todd Gilbert.

As a result, 90 percent of the counties in Virginia have passed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions, wherein law enforcement would not enforce gun-control legislation that violates the Second Amendment.

“House Democrats seem to have learned nothing from the public outcry caused by their proposals. A similar Senate version of House Bill 961 is exactly what prompted the ‘Second Amendment sanctuary cities’ movement across Virginia. These efforts will continue to divide Virginia and without any meaningful public safety outcomes whatsoever,” Gilbert added.

On Jan. 20, tens of thousands of gun-rights activists from across the country peaceably protested at the Virginia Capitol, some wearing tactical gear and openly carrying their firearms.