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VA lawmakers pass strict gun control bills including background checks and purchase limits

Gun rights protestors chant "We will not comply" as they gather on Bank Street outside the Virginia state capitol Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. (Rob Ostermaier/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS)
March 10, 2020

Just before the close of Virginia’s legislative session, lawmakers passed a pair of gun control bills, including expanded background checks and limits on the number of handguns a person can purchase.

On Saturday, lawmakers passed a measure to expand background checks to all firearms purchases, and another measure to limit people who do not have concealed carry permits to only purchase one handgun per month, The Hill reported. The last set of gun control bills passed on the final day of the state’s legislative session on March 7.

The gun control measures will now go to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for consideration. However, Northam has already voiced support for the measures.

“Today, this year, Virginia has said enough is enough. The emergency of gun violence must end. This legislation will help get us there,” Northam said in a statement following the final vote. “Thank you to the many gun violence prevention advocates, some of you still grieving over the loss or injury of a loved one, who have fought for years for today. And thank you to the legislators who finally listened to the voices of Virginians and voted to pass common sense gun safety legislation.”

In total, Virginia lawmakers have passed seven of the eight gun control measures favored by Northam. In February, the Virginia Senate voted down one of the major gun measures, an “assault weapons” ban to bar the purchase of popular semi-automatic firearms like the AR-15 and ban the ownership of magazines that can hold more than 12 rounds. Senators instead voted to table the issue for the year, as they deferred to Virginia’s State Crime Commission for further study.

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The other gun control measures that already passed by Virginia lawmakers during the 2020 legislative session included an extreme risk protective order, or “Red Flag” bill, allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize firearms from otherwise lawful owners accused of presenting a risk of harm to themselves or others. Other gun control measures also passed, requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours, as well as another measure barring gun owners from allowing minors to access them without supervision.

Virginia saw a widespread “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement throughout the state after Democrats won control of both houses of the state’s legislature in November and began to announce support for stricter gun laws. Thus far 91 of Virginia’s 95 counties, 12 cities and 22 towns signed resolutions indicating they would deprioritize the enforcement of new gun laws, BBC reported.

Around 22,000 gun rights activists marched around the Virginia capitol building in January in opposition to numerous gun control measures under consideration at the time.