A Democrat-led Virginia House Committee on Jan. 24 voted to advance a raft of tighter gun control measures, including a “red flag” bill and universal background checks, just days after a gun-rights rally opposing such legislation drew at least 22,000 Second Amendment advocates.
The bills, most of which passed along party-lines (13-9), will now head to the full House for consideration. The bills will have to be approved by the House and the state Senate before being signed by Gov. Ralph Northam to become law. The Senate has already passed a number of gun control bills.
The House Public Safety Committee passed gun-control measures including legislation limiting handgun purchases to one a month, penalizing gun owners who don’t report lost or stolen guns within 24 hours, and allowing localities to ban arms from government buildings, according to Alfonso Lopez, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.
The committee, however, did not pass a bill that would ban “assault weapons,” according to WHSV. The Senate counterpart of that bill was killed weeks ago during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“Today, the House Public Safety committee shamefully rubber-stamped the Bloomberg-Northam gun control scheme,” NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen told The Epoch Times via email.
Mortenson said the committee blocked legislator’s questions and prevented constituents from speaking, describing it as a “disgrace to the democratic process.”
“Virginians deserve lawmakers who will hear testimony and conduct serious vetting of each bill—as the Senate Judiciary Committee did—before voting on measures that will strip away the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and leave them defenseless,” she said, referring to the bills passed weeks ago.
In a Jan. 24 statement following the passage of the bills, Eileen Filler-Corn, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, said that Virginians spoke clearly when they voted in the November 2019 elections. She said voters turned out “to demand action from the General Assembly to make their communities safer.”
Democrats recently won control of both chambers of the state legislature and have vowed to enact stronger gun control policies, saying that stricter legislation will help reduce shootings and deaths. Northam has indicated previously that he would sign such legislation into law.
Earlier this week, Americans from across the country traveled to Virginia with some coming in packed buses, others driving from hours away, and a smaller number flying to the state to send a unified message to the state legislature—”no” to gun control.
Second Amendment advocates and gun-rights supporters told The Epoch Times that the proposals passing through the General Assembly violate their constitutional rights while doing nothing to stop criminals.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 22, Virginia’s state Senate passed a “red flag” bill (SB 240) by a thin 21–19 margin. The bill, once signed into law, allows authorities to apply to certain courts for “an emergency substantial risk order to prohibit a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm.”
Gun rights groups decried the passage of the red flag bill. Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, told The Epoch Times that red flag laws allow the theft of personal property from law-abiding citizens who have committed no crime.
Northam and other Democratic lawmakers in the state have credited their focus on gun control for helping them win full control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades, according to The Associated Press.
During the gun rights rally, tens of thousands converged at the steps of the Capitol building and in the surrounding streets, and some gun rights supporters chose not to enter the Capitol so as to not violate the temporary state of emergency declared by Northam, which banned the carrying of guns on the grounds.
There was a heavy police presence at the rally, and overhead, security watched from rooftops on nearby buildings and on the Capitol itself. There was only one entrance and a number of security checkpoints to get onto the Capitol grounds. The mood, however, was upbeat, and authorities said there were no arrests or injuries reported as of 1:40 p.m, with most people having left by that time. The event concluded peacefully.