A handful of gun control bills have recently been approved by Virginia’s General Assembly and will now head to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for signing, despite strong opposition from Second Amendment advocates and gun rights groups.
Five bills, part of a larger group of eight gun control proposals also known as the “Governor’s Package,” are expected to be signed by Northam after passage by state legislators. The bills will officially become law with Northam’s signature.
Democrats last year won control of both chambers of the statehouse—for the first time in more than two decades—and vowed to enact stronger gun control policies, saying it will help reduce shootings and deaths. In addition to the majority in the state legislature, the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general also are Democrats.
Among the approved measures are a “red flag” bill that would allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from anyone deemed by a judge to be dangerous to themselves or others, a bill allowing localities to ban guns in certain areas, and a bill penalizing gun owners for not reporting a stolen firearm.
“A historic step forward—and even more to come,” Northam said on his Twitter account. His press secretary didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.
Gun rights groups told The Epoch Times that the state legislature is ignoring a large majority of Virginians who they say ardently oppose all gun control measures. Second Amendment advocates argue that the proposed bills violate their constitutional rights.
“The General Assembly again ignored Virginians who peacefully assembled in Richmond to oppose this overreach,” Mark Oliva, director of public affairs at the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), said via email. “Not a single measure brought forward by the General Assembly addressed crime or holding criminals accountable.”
On Jan. 20, a massive rally drawing least 22,000 Second Amendment advocates from across the country was organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) to peacefully oppose the barrage of gun control policies moving in the state legislature.
“VCDL will be working to get them repealed in future legislatures,” Philip Van Cleave, president of VCDL, told The Epoch Times via Twitter, referring to the legislation heading to Northam’s desk.
John Crump, Virginia state director for the Gun Owners of America, said the group will do everything in its power to fight for the rights of Virginians.
“We are prepared to take these battles to the courts as well as the ballot box,” Crump told The Epoch Times via email. “We will never stop fighting for liberty and freedom.”
One gun control proposal, an “assault weapons” ban, considered by Second Amendment advocates as the most egregious measure, was rejected by state lawmakers, a result of efforts by gun rights groups using a wide-reaching and comprehensive awareness strategy.
“Law-abiding gun owners in Virginia are very angry, and they will hold the Governor and General Assembly accountable for forcing gun control down their throats,” Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, said via email.
Meanwhile, hundreds of local counties, cities, and towns across America are declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” or “constitutional counties,” as part of a growing movement in which local officials and some sheriffs generally state that they won’t enforce new gun laws they believe are unconstitutional.
In Virginia, now the epicenter of the gun debate, 91 of the state’s 95 counties have passed some sort of measure affirming their support for Second Amendment sanctuaries.
David Campbell, vice chairman of the Effingham County Board in Illinois, whose county was one of the first to pass Second Amendment legislation in April 2018, said Northam’s package appears to be a done deal.
“Geographically, over 90 percent of the state of Virginia has taken a hard stand on not only protecting their Second Amendment Rights but all their Constitutional Rights,” he told The Epoch Times. “Elections have consequences, and at this point, I believe the people truly see how important it is to get the right people in office to represent their values and wishes.”
Groups that support gun control policies applauded the recent passage.
The nonprofit organization Brady: United Against Gun Violence called the recent developments in the state legislature a “substantive step.”
“Gun violence prevention bills work in concert with one another, strengthening and supporting protections to help keep weapons out of potentially dangerous situations and out of the hands of those who should not have them,” Brady President Kris Brown said in a statement on the group’s website.