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Virginia Senate strikes down ‘assault weapons’ ban bill; won’t revisit for a year

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)
February 17, 2020

Virginia’s state senate has voted down an effort to institute an “assault weapons” ban across the state.

The ban would have prohibited the sale of certain semi automatic firearms, including popular rifles like the AR-15, and banned the ownership of magazines that can hold more than 12 rounds. While Democrats hold a narrow majority in Virginia’s senate, four moderate Democrats joined Republicans in opposition to the controversial gun bill, according to the Associated Press.

Last week lawmakers in the Virginia House of Delegates voted in favor of the bill before passing it on to the state Senate. On Monday, Senators voted to put off the issue for 2020 and instead defer to Virginia’s State Crime Commission to further study the issue.

The vote on Monday reportedly drew cheers from gun rights activists who packed a Senate committee room to watch the vote.

The results of the vote may come as a relief to gun rights activists throughout the state who have raised opposition to several gun control efforts proposed by the state’s newly Democratic majorities in both houses of its legislature.

The gun control proposals have seen widespread opposition throughout the state as a “second amendment sanctuary” movement rose up in response. 91 of Virginia’s 95 counties and several more localities passed non-binding resolutions claiming they would not prioritize enforcing new gun laws.

Around 22,000 of those gun rights activists demonstrated on Virginia’s capitol hill during the early weeks of the state’s legislative session, in opposition to the gun control proposals.

Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam had favored the ban and drew further opposition when he warned of “consequences” for those localities that did not enforce the new gun laws.

Rep. Donald McEachin also suggested Northam could resolve opposition to the new gun laws by mobilizing the National Guard.

More strict versions of the “assault weapons” ban bill, met earlier opposition. Northam favored the bill’s current iteration, as a watered down alternative that he hoped could gain more support from moderate Democrats.

Though lawmakers voted down the “assault weapons” ban, they have passed other gun control measures during the 2020 legislative session.

Both houses of Virginia’s legislature have already passed bills limiting the number of handguns a person can purchase in a month to one and universal background checks on gun purchases. Lawmakers also passed an extreme risk protective order law, also known as a “red flag” law, allowing police to temporarily confiscate firearms from gun owners accused of being a risk of harm to themselves or others. Lawmakers also passed a bill allowing municipalities to ban firearms from public buildings, parks and other public areas.