Freedom-loving Virginians are breathing a well-deserved sigh of relief. On Monday, February 17, four Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee joined their Republican colleagues to vote down HB 961. The legislation, backed by disgraced Governor Ralph Northam and his Michael Bloomberg-bought allies in the House of Delegates, would have banned a wide array of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and magazines, making criminals out of otherwise law-abiding individuals merely for retaining possession of their own property.
However, this victory for the Second Amendment did not mark the end of the fight to preserve gun rights in the Commonwealth. There is still an array of anti-gun legislation making its way through the General Assembly and Virginia gun owners must continue their heroic efforts to defend the Constitution straight through to the end of the legislative session.
On Monday February 24, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to take up several gun control bills already passed by the House of Delegates. Some of the legislation is a House version of a policy already passed by the Senate. In these instances, the House version of the legislation is far worse than what the Senate produced.
In contrast to SB 70, which was passed by the Senate earlier this session, HB2 would criminalize almost all firearm transfers – not just sales. The legislation states that: “[n]o person shall sell, rent, trade, or transfer a firearm” without first subjecting the transferee to a state police background check to be conducted at a licensed firearms dealer.
The legislation does include some minor exemptions. However, the exemptions important to most gun-owners are incredibly narrow. Under this extreme legislation, even lending a brother your rifle for a deer hunt or letting your daughter borrow a handgun for self-defense could land otherwise law-abiding Virginians with a felony conviction and up to 5 years in jail. Additionally, the recipient could face up to a full year of incarceration.
HB2 would not make Virginia safer. This year, researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the UC Davis School of Medicine (named after new legislature’s bankroller) found that comprehensive background checks “were not associated with changes in firearm suicide or homicide.”
HB 674 would create a “red flag” gun confiscation procedure. This legislation would empower the government to strip an individual’s right to keep and bear arms and to seize their firearms pursuant to an ex parte order. This means that an individual’s guns could be confiscated before a meaningful hearing or other opportunity for the gun owner to be heard and present evidence in their defense.
HB 674 is worse than the “red flag” bill passed by the Senate earlier this session (SB 240). Whereas SB 240 would require a commonwealth’s attorney or two law enforcement officers to petition the court for a confiscation order, HB674 provides even less safeguards – allowing a single law enforcement officer to petition for a confiscation order.
“Red flag” gun confiscation legislation is unnecessary in Virginia because the Commonwealth already has strong and effective civil commitment laws. Under Virginia law, a law enforcement officer may take an individual into emergency custody for a mental health evaluation without prior court approval. A person detained in this manner is then evaluated to determine whether they meet the criteria for a temporary detention. A person that was the subject to a temporary detention order and subsequently agreed to voluntary admission to a mental health facility is prohibited from possessing firearms until their rights are restored by a court.
Further, these laws can create dangerous confrontations between law-abiding citizens and law enforcement. Following the issuance of an ex parte order, the arrival of an officer may be the individual’s first notice that their rights have been abrogated.
At 5:17 a.m. November 5, 2018, police served a “red flag” protective order on the home of Gary J. Willis in Anne Arundel, Md. According to the Baltimore Sun, Willis brought a firearm when he answered the early morning knock at his door. The confrontation ultimately ended with police shooting and killing Willis in his own home.
HB 421 would eliminate Virginia’s vital firearms preemption statute and grant Virginia’s 95 counties and 38 independent cities the authority to enact severe gun controls.
Current Virginia statute ensures that those living and travelling throughout Virginia are subject to the same predictable laws wherever they are in the Commonwealth. With this regimen, law-abiding gun owners can move about the state without fear of being ensnared by a confusing patchwork of local ordinances.
Prior to enacting a strong firearms preemption statute, Virginia’s localities had a mishmash of local gun controls. Several cities and counties had various gun-seller licensing and taxation schemes. Some localities maintained a registry of handguns and their owners. Multiple jurisdictions imposed a 72-hour waiting period on handgun purchases. Numerous localities required a “permit” or other written law enforcement permission to acquire a handgun.
Eliminating Virginia’s preemption statute would undo the Right-to-Carry by empowering local officials to create convoluted and unpredictable local laws prohibiting firearms in any number of places. Unable to predict or comprehend the contours of the various ordinances, concealed handgun permit holders would be forced to forego their Right-to-Carry for fear of running afoul of an obscure or complicated local law.
HB 812 would ration the right to keep and bear arms by prohibiting law-abiding Virginians from purchasing more than one handgun per 30-day period. Unlike SB 69, which passed the Senate earlier this session, HB 812 would not provide an exemption for concealed handgun permit holders.
From 1993 to 2012, Virginia had a “one-handgun-a-month” law that rationed the number of handguns law-abiding gun owners could purchase.
In 1993, Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and other gun control advocates sold the handgun rationing measure as a way to curb gun trafficking from Virginia to more restrictive Northeast states, particularly New York. Gov. Bob McDonnell, who supported the bill as a delegate in 1993, would go on to sign its repeal in 2012.
According to ATF trace data, there was not an increase in firearms recovered in New York being traced to Virginia in the years after repeal. In the three years prior to repeal (2009-11), a total of 1265 firearms recovered in New York were traced to Virginia. In the three years following repeal (2013-15), a total of 1259 firearms recovered in New York were traced to Virginia.
Further, Federal law already imposes a requirement on gun dealers to report the multiple sale of handguns made to an individual within five consecutive business days.
HB 9 would re-victimize the victims of property crime by placing a penalty on the failure to report the theft of a firearm to law enforcement within 24 hours. This bill is similar to SB 67, which was defeated by the Senate earlier this session.
In the aftermath of a burglary, victims are occupied with a host of concerns. The first and foremost concern is the physical safety and well-being of themselves and their loved ones. This could require coordinating a temporary place to stay or overseeing home repairs or improvements to home security. Victims must also arrange for the security of their remaining property. Victims will also be busy coordinating with law enforcement and the burdens of dealing with their insurance company. On top of these priorities, victims deal with the emotional trauma attendant to such an extreme violation of their property and privacy. It is unacceptable to place an additional burden on individuals during this time of hardship.
Further, there is no evidence to support this policy. A 2018 survey of firearms studies conducted by the Rand Corporation found no research demonstrating lost or stolen reporting laws produce desirable outcomes.
HB 1288 would expand Virginia’s prohibited persons categories to strip the Second Amendment rights of those convicted of several types of non-domestic violence misdemeanors. This expansion is so great that it would prohibit an individual for certain types of assault and battery convictions. This is important, in part, because those charged with misdemeanors are not given the same exhaustive due process as those charged with felonies.
HB 1083 would restrict parental rights by dictating how parents they are permitted to introduce their children to firearms. This bill is the same as SB 581, which was defeated earlier this session in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
HB 1080 would limit the ability of school boards and school administrators to provide for the security of their students and faculty by restricting their power to designate individuals as authorized to carry on school grounds for security purposes.
The fight for firearms freedom in the Old Dominion is far from over. The good news is that with the defeat of HB 961, Virginians now have a clear example of how their grassroots pro-gun activism is of vital importance.
Speaking with Fox News the day after helping to vote down HB 961, Sen. Chapman Petersen (D-34) said, “I think anytime people speak to you, whether it’s constituents or whether it’s other citizens of Virginia, yes it makes a difference.”
This is why Virginia gun owners must continue to make their voices heard in Richmond. Please call your Senator and ask them to OPPOSE these gun control bills. You may click here to look up your Senator and find their Capitol phone number. If you already know who your Senator is, click here.
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